“Le Crunch” or Entente Cordiale at the Stade de France?

Non, Jacques Brunel will not shave his moustache, as he promised to do so in front of the French media, if France had won the 6 Nations, but it could have been possible… (Yes, I know I am an optimist) if France hadn’t  lost their first game against the Irish (daylight robbery by Sexton in the 83rd minute) and Les Bleus, due to their lack of focus and discipline didn’t give the game away to the Scots in the last 20 mins at Murrayfield.
Fortunately, they won against Italy at the velodrome in Marseille which was to be expected.  It was their first victory in their last 9 games. Bastareaud after a “forced rest” was full of energy and was extremely efficient against the Italians. A player that the English should be fearful of and will certainly be targeted.
However, if les Bleus win today, I wonder whether, Jacques Brunel has a secret bet with his team and might shave a quarter of his moustache 😉
Le crunch expression was devised in 1906 but took a new meaning after the legendary brutal encounters between Les Bleus and “les Rosbifs” in the 80s and 90s.  This morning, Will Carling on his Twitter account was reminiscing about how he used to wipe the froth from Brian Moore aka Pitbull’s mouth before heading down the tunnel to face les Bleus. There was an excellent article yesterday on Sky detailing the rugby “war” that happened during this rugby era. Those were the days, when France were at the top of their game, which sadly has been declining in the last few years and been overtaken by England and Ireland.
After their draw against Japan, Guy Noves was replaced by Rugby veteran, Jacques Brunel who took over the reins on 27th December. First task for Brunel was to appoint new coaching staff and review the overall game strategy for les Bleus.
After a near miss in the Stade de France against the Irish, during their first Six Nations game, Les bleus have lots to prove to their French audience when they revisit the crime scene today. After the embarrassing and drunken night out in Edinburgh by 8 French players  a few weeks ago, the popularity ratings for the French Rugby team dropped considerably, so today, Guilhem Guirado and his team will be hungry, very hungry for a victory on French soil.
During the press conference, at the RFU training ground on Thursday, Eddie Jones stated he was cautious of the French team and that they had some big players, such as Bastareaud who weighs 20 stone but is very potent and fast on his feet. Eddie was full of praise for the experience and professionalism of Jacques Brunel too and “Le crunch” is likely to be a “slogathon” rather than a walk in the park.
So today, the English team will be glued to the front of their screens before their warm up session at the Stade de France, and will be hoping for Scotland to win and then will be hard at work to score 4 tries in order to win the 6 Nations.
A crucial match for Les Bleus too, but it will all depend which French team will turn up and how focused and disciplined they will be today. Last year, they lost against England in the last twenty minutes so let’s hope they have worked on their fitness and stamina over the last few weeks.
What’s for sure is that French TV rating for Le Crunch will be the highest for a Rugby game. Only five years left until the Rugby World Cup in France and it’s very important to market the game of the rugby, as Football is still being seen as number one sport. At least, Rugby has a new fan: My father, massive football and cycling afficionado, who is getting more and more into Rugby (I think I may have something to do with it…).

The New Wave for les Bleus (in English)!

Enjoy ze ride!


Six NATIONS 2018 will start today…Time flies. I remember watching briefly as a kid, when it was still called “5 Nations” on a grainy, black and white TV on a Saturday in February in France. I cannot recall the names of the players as it was about 30 years ago, but I remember vividly as if it was yesterday, when a rooster was released on the pitch of Parc des Princes by a supporter. Ah, ces Français alors…
Forward 35 years later, and now I am living on the other side of the channel: England, the nation that gave birth to rugby. It’s complicated for me as I support France and England (my beloved and adopted country). When I met the England captain, Dylan Hartley, last week, he was rather perplexed when I mentioned this “So, you are French, you live in England and you support both teams?”.  Yes, except, when France plays against England, I have to support Les Bleus, bien sûr.
Last week, at the 6 Nations official launch, I also met Jacques Brunel and found him affable, humble and ready to face the challenging task of taking over les Bleus, from his predecessor. The French squad has known 7 consecutive defeats and only drew when they played against Japan, under Noves, which was the last draw for Laporte. This led to the sacking of Guy Noves and Jacques Brunel was appointed on 27th December as changes needed to happen  immediately “chez les Bleus”.
Brunel made changes to his staff straight away, by appointing new coaches but kept Guilhem Guirado, the French captain. They know each other well, as Jacques used to be his coach when Guirado was playing for Perpignan.
Brunel  has only been in charge of the French squad for 6 weeks, but already there’s been a wind of change.  The French squad is slowly opening up to the media as under Noves’ watch, he despised media intrusion. Their last training session at Marcoussis was opened up to the public. Brunel treats his squad like men and not children too (under Noves’s regime, players had to ask permission to buy a tube of toothpaste, if they had to leave their training camp, for example).
Today will not be an easy feat for the French squad as the original team has been decimated by a plethora of injuries and players are quite young (which can be a benefit and a drawback at the same time). In the team, Guirado’s nickname is “Pappy” which translates for Grandad as he’s very “ancient” because he’s 31 years old 😉, but has been playing for les Bleus since 2008.
Today, there will be some new and relatively unknown players starting, such as Matthieu Jalibert who is only 19 years old, fly- half but who has shown great potential (he’s likely to be targeted by the men in Green), but also other players such as Priso, Pellisie, Gomes Sa and Taulieigne etc….). Young squad and full of energy, joy and passion.
 So, a victory today would go a long way. If not, I am very positive about the future of Les Bleus! Les Bleuets “French U20s” won their first game yesterday evening against the Irish team. A good omen, I hope.
Allez Les Bleus, all the way from L’Angleterre!
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