Sebastien Vahaamahina did not even know he was captain when France slipped to Friday’s rudderless 24-19 Guinness Six Nations loss to Wales in Paris.
The 27-year-old Clermont lock has made the startling admission that referee Wayne Barnes had to tell him he was skipper late in the second half, once hooker Guilhem Guirado had been replaced.
Vahaamahina’s madcap wide pass over the top was picked off by George North, who raced in for his second try, completing Wales’ record Six Nations comeback.
Warren Gatland’s men turned a 16-0 half-time deficit on its head to tiptoe out of Paris with the win, and now Vahaamahina’s latest revelation only serves to deepen the disorganisation among Jacques Brunel’s men.
“I did not even know I was captain,” Vahaamahina told Midi Olympique.
“It was the referee, Wayne Barnes, who came to see me on a penalty to ask me my choice.
“I told him to address the captain; he said it was me. The staff did not warn me.”
France will move on to face England at Twickenham on Sunday, desperate to whip themselves into some kind of shape.
Louis Picamoles and Yoann Huget crossed for tries to put Les Bleus in almost total control at 16-0 at half-time in Paris on Friday.
But all poise deserted the French after the turnaround, with North crossing twice and Tomos Williams bagging a try.
Former Italy boss Brunel previewed France’s Six Nations tournament by insisting it was time his men left a litany of “near misses” behind them.
France lost 15-13 to Ireland in last season’s Six Nations opener, thanks to Johnny Sexton’s monster drop-goal in Paris.
Scotland and Wales then also pipped France by one score in a lacklustre tournament.
France lost all three Tests in New Zealand last summer, then suffered further one-score defeats to South Africa and Fiji in the autumn.
Vahaamahina’s revelation he had not been informed he was captain will only heighten the notion of a disorganised France squad in almost total disarray.
Head coach Brunel himself hardly helped matters by admitting he was struggling to put a finger on the problems, when talking in the immediate wake of defeat on Friday.
“It’s difficult to explain, it’s not a lack of fighting spirit, it’s a lack of control in important moments,” said Brunel on Friday.
“It’s a disappointment because we were very committed, we did interesting things, especially in the first half.
“It’s not the mental frame of mind. We were fully committed until the end. It was a problem of control.”