About two weeks ago I gave a critical, but hopeful, look at the state of French rugby. Basically, I took shots at the FFR, LNR and clubs, but largely left the players unscathed. Hell, I praised a good few of them and even lauded the talent in French rugby. I even forgot the one rule of supporting a shit team and dreamed of a 2/4 return from the autumn internationals. How wrong I was.
Not a single French player covered himself in glory last night, but three of them were decent enough not to get verbally flogged. So François, Sekou and Camille can go stand in the corner while the rest of this lot will get chewed out. Oh, and I guess Rabah can go eat cookies and bowl over trophies, cause we all know nothing ever applies to him.
France played with all the poise, skill and attractiveness of an andouillette sausage against Japan last night. Creativity and spirit were about as far removed from the French as a decent training regimen, healthy lifestyle and honest medical assessment are from Uini Atonio. By comparison, Japan always looked dangerous with ball in hand and gave it their all until the end. Were it not for some wayward goal kicking, they’d have won it. By all rights, they should have won it. Also, and this might have been said before, but can we just take a moment to appreciate that fullback, Matsushima? Good grief, what a player.
French outlet Rugbyrama put it thus: “2017, the year Les Bleus became clowns”. Unfortunately, these clowns are about as amusing as getting your scrotum/labia stapled to a rag drenched in sriracha sauce. Previous iterations of French teams might’ve also been described as clowns, but at least they’d be the scary kind that opposition forwards would be dreadfully afraid of playing. This pack, bar a few exceptions, are about as threatening as Jacques Brunel wearing a bargain bin Halloween costume. Moderately frightening to Italian rugby fans, but otherwise just a sad looking man who’d be more in place in a tax accountancy firm.
With no player is this more apparent than with Clermont lock Paul Jedrasiak, who came on in the second half. He is a man with the brow of a Cro-Magnon and a gaze that would make Batman soil his bat-themed briefs. Yet he tackles with the ferocity of a wet crumpet. Perhaps he is the new Damien Chouly: Clermontois with decent enough performances at club level, who has so little impact in a test match that you don’t even notice he’s there until he leisurely jogs to wherever the scrum is given after France inevitably commit another unforced handling error.
He’s by no means the only forward deserving flack for acting like he showed up to a walk-in buffet rather than a professional test match. Louis Picamoles should no longer be nicknamed “King Louis”, after what was an obvious abdication to Amanaki Mafi, who shall henceforth be known as “Heavenly Sovereign Mafi.” I can’t decide if it’s the homeless man facial hear look or the bags of money from Montpellier, but he’s obviously slowed down by something. The man has simply looked sluggish since he left Northampton; his effort against the Bokke was the first time he’s played anywhere near decent form since he left the Saints.
Onto the backs then, where the continued selection of Scott Spedding makes about as much sense as willingly subjecting oneself to Chinese water torture. By my knowledge, there isn’t a single French fan, or even rugby fan in general, who wouldn’t rather see Dulin or Ducuing at 15. Seeing Scott’s name come up on the selection sheet each time is akin to the feeling you get when there’s another terrible news story on war in the Middle East: dread, despair, impotence and the realisation that God is dead, as no benevolent deity would allow this shit to continue.
Somehow, even éclair gobbling, Barney stunt double Mathieu Bastareaud made his return in blue this autumn. Yes, France have had a metric shit ton of injuries lately, especially at centre, but surely there are better options? Like giving anyone of the #ThingsThatLookLikeMathieuBastareaud a French cap? For a man who supposedly espoused his desires to rejuvenate France and bring back a little joy in their game, Guy Novès has done his absolute best to turn the horrid mess of the Saint-André era into a horrid mess that should have lost by some margin against Japan. For the record, 3 wins in a calendar year (and that’s counting that shit-show against Wales that really shouldn’t be counted) is the worst return for a French team since before rugby went professional.
“Where to go from here?” would be the quintessential way to wrap up this rant. I, for one, can only see one way forward. Dress up the entire team in Krusty the Clown suits, stick a Habanero up their urethras and have Rabah Slimani, greased up and naked, use his own body as a bowling ball. They’ll still be clowns, but at least they’ll be entertaining to watch for the first time in a long while.