With the Champions Cup quarter-finals looming on the horizon, Planet Rugby caught up with France and Toulouse back-row François Cros ahead of the Top 14 outfit’s highly anticipated last eight encounter against Munster at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Cros is the quiet man of French rugby.
Happiest in the dark arts of the breakdown, relentless in tackle count and dominant around the fringes, he offers the gritty and stoical counterpoint to the carrying and support play of his back-row colleagues, Anthony Jelonch and Gregory Alldritt.
In excellent form
With Charles Ollivon injured for 12 months, Cros and fellow flanker Jelonch have formed a formidable partnership at Test level, one forged at Stade Toulousain, but honed and polished in the blue of France, alongside his mercurial team-mates, Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack.
With Toulouse and France both tasting success over the past two years, Cros feels satisfied but is always looking for improvement, a quality that is evident in every word he speaks.
“My season has been fantastic,” he said.
“Accomplishing the Six Nations Grand Slam was a massive achievement for us and one I’ll remember forever. It came after Toulouse won their 21st Championship in the Top 14 coupled with a fifth Champions Cup title after beating La Rochelle in the final at Twickenham this year and life in rugby is great!
“I am taking nothing for granted however, and I am striving to be better. The French back-row options are very deep, with great competition for places. This is exactly what both the coaches and the team needs – positional depth and players fighting you for your shirt.
“We have a lot of great loose forwards all playing at a similar level right now,” he explained.
“If you’re lucky enough to be one of the starters, you know you have another high quality performer pressuring you for your place and that’s incredibly healthy.
“I am well aware of what my role within both the French and Toulouse side is – and what my personal qualities are – my workrate and number of interventions are key to what I bring to the team – I don’t carry like a couple of the others and my impact is one that’s measured around the fringes and in that intensity of the breakdown.
“I train hard in terms of my fitness and in terms of my ability to make those key interventions – a great back-row is all about balance; it matters not what the shirt numbers are but the skill blend is the key. At both Toulouse and France we have players that can do incredible things with the ball in hand – my job is to make sure that they have that ball to display their amazing skills and I am very clear about that!
“The fact that Toulouse are providing something like 10 players for the French side allows us to take our club relationships on to the international pitch – firstly, it’s great to share the successes with your club-mates, but importantly, we bring a degree of intuition to our understandings from club to country.
“Particularly, with Anthony joining us from Castres last year, I’ve enjoyed developing a relationship with him on the pitch; he’s a great guy and our skillsets complement each other really well – he is comfortable carrying in support in the wider channels and offers another line out option and I think we work well together.”
Other important interests
Whilst hard work on the pitch and training paddock are always at the forefront of Cros’ mind and conversation, his personal family and friendships around the game are most important to him and it appears it’s going pretty well on that front too.
“To cap it all, my partner and I are expecting a little girl in September, our first, which is incredibly exciting,” he exclaimed.
“It’s not common in France to do a gender reveal party, but my partner and I did exactly that recently; it was important to us, after all that we’ve been through recently, to spend time with our friends and loved ones, and we thought this was a fun way of doing it,” chuckled the big French flank.
“This is our first and I am hoping all goes well.”
Looking forward to Saturday, Cros is looking to avenge the defeat at the Aviva Stadium in 2019, when Leinster won 30-12 in a Champions Cup semi-final clash that kicked the French team out of the tournament. However, this time, thanks to Ed Sheeran’s tour taking over Munster’s home at Thomond Park, they meet a different Irish province who play an entirely different style of rugby.
“Look, The Aviva Stadium a fantastic place to play rugby – a wonderful surface with a brilliant atmosphere and I am sure that Munster will bring their incredible support up the motorway with them,” he said. “I really enjoyed playing there before and am looking forward to the occasion.
“Munster will test you up front – they have a great set-piece and that battle will be absolutely key for us. Their ability at line out to catch and drive is a hallmark of their play and it’s key that we stop their set-piece at source. The breakdown too will be crucial as usual – they are very competitive and aggressive around that area and we will have to be at our very best to succeed.”
For Cros, this weekend is another chance to prove just how good both national and club rugby are in France right now. On a personal level, this has been a season to remember for the quiet man of Toulouse and who would bet on him and his cohorts putting yet another big win on the scoreboard?
We thank François for his time.
The article Exclusive: Toulouse’s François Cros keen for dream season to continue appeared first on Planetrugby.com.