French president calls for unity and blames player loss for England thumping

·3-min read
France forward Justin Sangare Credit: Alamy
France forward Justin Sangare Credit: Alamy

French Federation president Luc Lacoste has called for unity following a humbling international weekend.

France’s men and women’s teams were both beaten 64-0 by England at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, doing little to build excitement towards a home World Cup in 2025.

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Absentees were blamed for the nature of defeats, with Laurent Frayssinous without 15 players – 10 through injury and four who were not made available by Catalans in the shape of Ben Garcia, Julian Bousquet, Romain Navarrete and Paul Seguier plus the banned Toulouse prop Lambert Belmas.

The women’s team were also without 12 players from the World Cup, including five who have retired and a further seven that were unable to play due to injuries or work commitments.

Lacoste said: “This weekend is a special case that cannot be representative, and these two games are the confirmation of the lessons already learned following the World Cup.

“I believe that explaining the (men’s) failure is fairly simple. Our squad was cut off from its best Super League players.

“The team was mainly composed of eight players playing in the Championship and Elite One. We all know how much the gap that separates the top level from the rest. England, meanwhile, played with 100% Super League players.

“The national team is too heavily dependent on Catalans Dragons and Toulouse Olympique, who are doing a remarkable job.”

Developing more international quality players

There is likely to be a minimum quota of French players enforced on Catalans and Toulouse during the new IMG proposals, although the Dragons have in recent years started to bring more players through.

Their respective reserve sides play in the French Elite Championship, whose season runs through the winter, and so creates some opportunity for movement between the leagues.

However, the gap between what’s required of the professional players at Catalans, far exceeds those of the players in Elite Championship. The best French players generally gain some exposure to the full-time environments at Catalans or Toulouse, should they have the ability but don’t always make their way through.

A reliance on the two professional clubs is likely to be unavoidable, although more French players moving throughout Super League would be a positive.

Lacoste added: “Since the World Cup, the Federation has put in place a sporting plan to improve its performance and results.

“We are intensifying the search for players capable of being eligible for the squads in 2025, with special attention to players who are eligible for New Caledonia (the French colony in the Pacific).

“We intend to facilitate departures abroad to Super League or even the Southern Hemisphere for players to improve their sporting level.

“The French teams are and remain a priority. The whole system, from our professional clubs to our Elite clubs and beyond, must mobilise and make the necessary efforts to ensure that ‘Club France’ maintains its essential unifying status.”

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