They had marked the meeting with a white cross. Saturday, November 20, in a packed and supercharged Stade de France, the Blues marked the bodies of the All Blacks in white outfits. And the spirits. Winner with the manner of New Zealand at the conclusion of the autumn tour (40-25), the XV of France of Fabien Galthié holds his match of reference. Of those that one tells the stars in the eyes.
“It’s been several weeks since this poster was in the back of our heads”, recognized Captain Antoine Dupont the day before the meeting. Hardly the haka swallowed, his partners did not drag to attack what is done best on the planet rugby: the New Zealanders. Sure of their strength, they put the men of Ian Foster on the back, scoring three tries with authority in half an hour (two by Peato Mauvaka, one by Romain Ntamack).
A splendid menu for the furious public of the Stade de France, also at the height of the meeting. “There was a lot of noise, and we allowed them to gain momentum from the start”, breathed the New Zealand coach. After a year and a half of famine, pandemic obliges, the French public sent a signal to the All Blacks, who will return to the Dionysian enclosure in two years to start the 2023 World Cup – against the XV of France.
Worn out by an endless tour – they have spent the last twelve weeks in an ultra-strict health bubble – and beaten last week in Ireland (20-29), one would have thought Sam Whitelock’s teammates extinguished by the blue fury. Dominated in the heart of the game – evidenced by the two French trials registered following a penetrating group – the All Blacks have bowed their spine. But after the break, they reminded the French why their black jersey holds a special place in world rugby.
In one action, Ntamack revives the Blues
Manhandled on the return from the locker room by the burst of pride of the New Zealanders, and on the verge of giving in, all it took was a brilliant action to the Blues to get back in the direction of travel. Following a clever kicking game from the back Jordie Barrett, Romain Ntamack recovers the ball in the French in-goal, under the opposing pressure. But rather than ensuring, the tightrope walker from Toulouse revives, erases two opponents and initiates a lightning counterattack. With a blind pass, he serves Melvyn Jaminet who goes up all the field, before serving Antoine Dupont. “We end up five meters from the opponent’s in-goal with a yellow card against them [Ardie Savea]. Psychologically, this burst of pride did us a lot of good ”, relishes the captain of the Blues.
Released recently, after an hour spent scrapping against the New Zealand first line, the pillar Cyril Baille has risen. “I screamed with all my strength, it was magic, he confesses. This incredible action puts us back in the game a bit. “ Because the Blues felt the breath of the Blacks on their necks. Arrived at the break by leading widely (24-6), they were not leading a quarter of an hour later, having seen the 2011 and 2015 world champions register three tries (27-25). “At the start of the second half, we had a weak time, then very weak, observes Fabien Galthié. Until this moment when Romain and the players behind him decide to say stop: “We resume the conduct of the match”. “ They never let go.
After two imperfect victories against Argentina (29-20) and Georgia (41-15), the Blues knew they were expected. If their potential is hardly debated, the men of Fabien Galthié have taken the unfortunate tendency to let certain endings slip away, for two years. Would they climb the Black Mountain and materialize their progress with a prestigious victory? Meeting for a month in Marcoussis, Antoine Dupont’s partners have succeeded in their fall moult. “We knew how to stay the course and not give up”, greet the captain of the blue ship. Full of mastery, they offer Fabien Galthié and his staff a prestigious victory.
“We will not take ourselves for others”
Les Bleus vintage Galthié beat the All Blacks, and these victories are too rare not to be savored. The last French victory against the team at the fern dates back to 2009, and the Blacks have chained for fourteen consecutive successes. Until the last second, the teammates of a perfect Melvyn Jaminet at the foot (8/8) pushed, crossing, roaring, the bar of 40 points with the siren. Enough to send a message two years before the 2023 World Cup. “We had noticed their evolution for two years, we saw it tonight, greeted the New Zealand coach, Ian Foster, after the meeting. France beat us tonight, it’s a group that has confidence, and a good mix of skills and experience. “
“These players believe in themselves, and are uninhibited”, adds Fabien Galthié. Like the last French test, where Damian Penaud sprang to splash the ball, yet lost by France, and spin his arms outstretched in the in-goal. The All Blacks have not recovered. But, warns the coach, “We will not take ourselves for others. This victory is a step, which will not change our vision ”.
On the “arrow of time” that he pinned when he took office, the meeting against the All Blacks is only halfway on a road leading to consecration, to the World Cup 2023. In the sheet road of the staff of the Blues exposed at the end of 2019 in the stronghold of the coach, in the Lot, the objective was clear: “Win back matches and titles quickly. “ For the matches, these Blues ticked the box – Saturday, with the manner -, remain the titles. The 2022 Six Nations Tournament, where they will host three times (including England in the last match) should allow them this progression. “Confronting the All Blacks is one thing, but when you beat them, you become another rugby player”, warned the general manager of the Blues, Raphaël Ibanez, this week in Marcoussis. After their capital performance, they know they are expected. “From now on, all the teams will face us at 200%”, breathes Melvyn Jaminet. On the upward slope for two years, they want to raise the glove.