Differing from their Autumn campaign, a strict ‘Covid-19 bubble’ will encompass the France Six Nations 2021 bid.
In news from the French Rugby Federation, it has decreed that over the course of this season’s Guinness Six Nations, the external threat from Covid-19 will impose strict conditions. So unlike the rotation theory utilized in Autumn, this February and March, they have selected 31 players for the whole championship.
It will create a ‘bubble’ from which head coach Fabien Galthié will select his matchday squad. Beginning in Round One away from home, the expectation is that players, management – including a Covid manager – will arrive, train, and compete in Rome yet, will remain held-up in strict quarantine. This measure was agreed to, as was the strict Covid protocols that each of the Six Nations must adhere to.
And while the observance of such controls has become an all familiar experience for professional sportspeople, it will require good management and self-discipline. So only on match day, will players interact with their opposition and match officials.
French fans will hope it does not restrict this years’ France Six Nations hopes. That it is not too much of a distraction, from the main goal – to recapture the trophy which slipped through their grasp when the 2020 championship came to a limp conclusion.
France name their final squad for the Six Nations
Barring injuries, this should be the 31 for the whole tournament
Camille Chat is injured and misses out. Joins Ntamack, Vakatawa, Ramos and Cros among the absentees pic.twitter.com/VDISbAu3qK
— Paul Eddison (@pauleddison) January 31, 2021
Strict Covid-19 bubble will encompass France Six Nations 2021 bid
Challenge-by-challenge, the opening round is of benefit to France. Not seen as a threat, the Italian leg will see a playing group trialled, for the next road trip. Away to Ireland, this is very much the key step towards their team goal. And it will also be another effort to retain the strict ‘Covid bubble’ intact, to enable the laying side best preparations in Dublin.
That second stage of this five-match tournament is how Le Bleus fans will tell if it is ‘their year’. Close in 2020, the only way for captain Charles Ollivon to mobilize his forces immediately is to be successful from the very start. A win away is very much like the European Football philosophy – away goals [wins] are worth double that of a home win.
Plus, without any of their passionate travelling fan base to cheer them on, the two opening games are vital to the psyche of the players themselves. 31 men can build a strong culture, a solid understanding of the game plan designed by Galthie and defence coach Shaun Edwards.
Note: with limitations on the squad rotation; due to maximum number of 31 players, France will be hoping there are no further injuries. Only under those conditions, could Le Bleus replace any member of the group.
With Matthieu Jalibert flinging out velvet like this against Racing 92 yesterday, Fabien Galthie won't exactly be losing sleep over Romain Ntamack's absence for the Six Nations. pic.twitter.com/EFfGzB7kml
— Charles Richardson (@CERichardson_) January 24, 2021
Of note, the loss of game maker Romain Ntamack cannot be measured. He, alongside playmaker Antoine Dupont, are two the key pillars for this era’s side. However, the injured Ntamack will want others like Matthieu Jalibert to fill his place. A huge task, yet the 22-year old Jalibert has grown into a quality driver with Bordeaux Bègles. Already a key part of the 23, it will be a big step-up now, to entertain the goals of any France Six Nations hopes in 2021.
Do that, first, they must defend well. To play to their potential, and keep focused within their small Covid-bubble. Do that and this year’s Championship should again hold the breath of World Rugby for the next month and a half.
Round One: Italy v France | England v Scotland | Wales v Ireland
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