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Turmoil-hit France just hoping for shoots of recovery

 

By Michael Sadlier

It is what it appears to be - one unholy mess with France coming into today's Six Nations opener devoid of form and, seemingly, much hope.

New coach Jacques Brunel has been parachuted in from Bordeaux, via Italy and a previous stint with Les Bleus, with his previous working relationship with under-fire French Rugby Federation President Bernard Laporte doubtless landing him the thankless-looking job.

Amidst hefty portions of turmoil surrounding the sacking of Guy Noves in December, France arrive at the Six Nations in desperate-looking shape with the game plan seemingly predicated on the hope that, well, something will turn up.

In fairness, the evident implosion for Les Bleus has been stalking them for some time with nothing of note being delivered regarding Six Nations finishes since 2011 when they were runners-up to England.

Since then, it has largely been about decline and fall. Last year was particularly damning when they managed to taste victory in just three games from 11 Tests, and November's drawn game with Japan was evidently the last straw for Noves's undistinguished reign.

It's little wonder that both Ronan O'Gara and Bernard Jackman, who have both worked in France's club game - which itself is often blamed for the demise of the national side through its huge spending and reliance on overseas players - have been trashing the national set-up.

But one thing Brunel has going for him is that expectations could hardly be lower - and in 19-year-old debutant out-half Matthieu Jalibert, he has selected a player who could electrify Les Bleus with some of their long departed elan.

Indeed the new France coach has picked a side which looks as if it could actually play with attack-minded inhibition.

Geoffrey Palis wins his first cap at full-back while they have players in the midfield and wings who like to look for space rather than contact. And even up front there is more than a hint of athleticism in flanker Yacouba Camara.

So, Les Bleus just might go out and play with some of the abandon of old.

Maybe, but France still look well off recovery yet.

Belfast Telegraph

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