Six Nations Tournament: High Intensity Blues

“Train like you play and play like you train”. On the lawn of the national training center of Marcoussis (Essonne), the maxim of coach Fabien Galthié who has managed since his appointment to impose these high intensity sessions, takes on its full dimension. And if Saturday the XV of France wins against Ireland at the Stade de France (9 pm, France 2), it will partly owe it to “these real ball training” as the technician also qualifies them who began to put them in place for the preparation of the last Six Nations Tournament interrupted by Covid-19 last March after the defeat in Scotland (28-17).

To attend such a session is, in a way, to make you dizzy. “I’m dead”, confides aside a player of the French rugby 7 team who came to make up the number. Because even the refreshment breaks are timed. Forty-five seconds no more. And a siren sounds every 2 or 3 minutes to end the current exercise. Then the workshops are linked with the objective of covering a total of 2,500 meters.

On the sky blue athletics track, in front of a screen, manager Raphaël Ibanez details the evening session carried out in the light of the projectors: “It’s a dense day, with a lot of consistency and voluntary pressure”, he warns in front of a table of abstruse figures. With the deadline of Saturday, the French staff still had to review their plans. Initially, “two full rugby training sessions” had been scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, but to keep things fresh, only Wednesday’s will meet these criteria.

Players always on the move

Before handling the ball in hand, the teammates of Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont who played with the blue chasuble of holders, have the right to a warm-up and a little conditioning under the leadership of the coach in charge of defense, Shaun Williams. The Englishman tries to recreate the match conditions with sequences of recovering the ball on the ground using foam shields. Again, no respite, you have to always be on the move.

Williams does not hesitate to titillate his troops by shouting suddenly “Sexton”, the name of the half-opening and strategist of Ireland that the Blues will meet on Saturday at the Stade de France. This has had a small effect in particular on the second Paul Willemse line. As master of ceremonies, Fabien Galthié then orchestrates the match at 15 against 15. His assistants all have a ball under their arm to restart the game as soon as the ball goes out of bounds. No respite, we tell you. “We are trying to put in a big volume to be ready on the big day,” remarks Bordeaux’s Antoine Jalibert. Ireland is warned.

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