Planet Rugby have teamed up with eToro to bring you Captain’s Call, a Rugby World Cup podcast featuring Two Cents Rugby, James While and former England captain Chris Robshaw and ex-Italy skipper Sergio Parisse.
In episode one of the three-part podcast, we previewed the Rugby World Cup Pool stages.
Strongest France team ever
Parisse believes that the current France team heading into the Rugby World Cup is the strongest squad they have produced in two decades.
Fabien Galthie’s side head into their home World Cup without the likes of Romain Ntamack and Paul Willemse, with Jonathan Danty and Cyril Baille set to miss the opening match against New Zealand through injury.
“What can we expect from France? Because right now, even from here in New Zealand, it feels like the fever for rugby is just building in France,” the podcast host Two Cents Rugby asked the former Azzurri captain.
“I had the chance to play the 2007 World Cup here, which was a great tournament,” Parisse said.
“You know, here in France, the culture, they love rugby, and they have a lot of expectations. This French team looks stronger than ever, and they are really excited.
“In the south of France, even in Paris, wherever there are a lot of fans around and obviously, it’s going to be fantastic to see all the teams playing the World Cup. And, of course, in France, there are a lot of expectations on this French team.
Robshaw added that the results in the World Cup warm-up matches threw tournament winner’s predictions out the window.
“Everyone kind of had their predictions before about two weeks ago, and then South Africa did that to New Zealand, and obviously Fiji have beaten England at home, and all of a sudden, everything’s kind of gone out the window,” he said.
“I think that’s what makes it so exciting, and previous form doesn’t always mean everything when you go into the World Cup. But from an English point of view, you can feel it building now, and of course, we’re so close to France. The French are going so well at the moment, and they have some world superstars in (Antoine) Dupont and a number of others.
“But of course, they’ve lost some big players. And I know Sergio will probably know something a little bit better than I do, but they could be a big loss.”
Turning the attention to the opening game, Two Cents was eager to hear from Parisse about the impact of France’s injuries.
“They’ve lost Willemse; Danty is not available for the first game. Cyril Baille is not available. Sergio, how deep do you think the depth goes in France? Like how many more injuries can they suffer before they start to look a bit fragile?” Two Cents asked.
“There is a lot of depth in this French team,” Parisse said.
“When you look at the team, the talent, the players, the depth they have, well, of course, Paul Willemse is a big blow, but they have people that are able to take his place, and as I said before, I’m pretty sure the France have the strongest team than ever in the last 20 or 15 years.
“As Chris says, Dupont is a guy who can really make a difference every time and they have a real physical pack. So it’s going to be interesting to see the first game against New Zealand; I think it’s going to set the tone for the rest of the tournament.”
Filling Jonathan Danty’s void
Inside centre, Danty is a doubt for the clash, and Planet Rugby writer James While added: “Danty for me is the biggest loss of those guys because I’m not sure France has a like-for-like replacement for him.
“That big number 12 that can crash it up from the 10/12 channel or first phase or second phase. Who do you think is going to replace him, or how are they going to cope without Danty?”
Robshaw replied: “Probably your old mate Sergio, Gael Fickou.
“I played away in France, and he’s broken my heart a couple of times and stuff like that.”
Parisse agreed with Robshaw, adding: “I have known Danty since he was a kid in the academy at Stade Francais. He is a great guy, and really powerful, and I agree with James; it is a big blow for France.
“His profile as a number 12, he is really physical, and he is really good on the jackal. Maybe they will change the strategy because you don’t have another Danty in the team. So it’s gonna be interesting to see how Galthie and his staff are going to replace him.”
Pressure of hosting the World Cup
Robshaw captained England at the 2015 Rugby World Cup on home soil.
The former back-rower says that pressure and expectation will weigh heavily on the players’ shoulders.
“The French going into a home World Cup and with England, of course, we had it in 2015. It’s that pressure and the expectation, and obviously, they’re ranked number one and number two in the world where we weren’t in that position.
“It’s very different going into that home game. Well, of course, they have played well, and New Zealand haven’t played as well in their last game. But before that, they were going pretty strongly.
“And normally, a lot of home nations will probably play a tier two side (in their opening game), build confidence knowing they’re going to get the win and all that.
“But this it’s a blockbuster from the off, they have to hit the ground running because all of a sudden, if they lose that first game against an easy All Blacks, it’s a very good side, don’t get me wrong. But then, all of a sudden, doubts may creep in: do we see different things?
“Whereas if they win that game and win that, well, the whole country will explode with excitement and passion and belief in this in the team, which I already have.”
All Blacks looked like they had their mojo back
Looking at the All Blacks, Robshaw says that the result against South Africa has shifted his opinion on New Zealand, who he was backing to go all the way in the tournament.
“Before the South Africa game two weeks ago, I thought this first game in France versus New Zealand would also be the final game. Who was going to win it I was unsure but like you said they come up against South Africa, and South Africa just destroyed them,” he said.
“I know there was a red card and played a lot with a man down, but I still think if Barrett had been on the field, they would have won comfortably.
“It was just the intensity which they couldn’t live, but before that game, they looked like they had their mojo back. They were playing free-flowing rugby, had that physicality, and they were mixing it up with cross-field picks.”
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The article Captain’s Call: Chris Robshaw and Sergio Parisse dissect Rugby World Cup Pool A appeared first on Planetrugby.com.