AS A young rugby fan in school, the team I followed closely was France because they had magic in the way they played.
Even the names were magical – Lagisquet, Sella, Mesnel, Blanco – and so was what they did on the rugby field.
These guys could dart down the blindside in no space at all and offload to teammates to score simply wonderful tries.
But looking at the current French side, not withstanding their improved performance in the final Six Nations match against Ireland last weekend – all that has appeared to have died.
Well, I lay all the blame at the door of the coach, in this case a guy I worked with in my career, Philippe Saint-André.
He’s cut his coaching teeth predominantly in England and he’s tried to take that outlook back to the French set-up.
He’s been ‘Anglified’, if you like. He’s looked at the discipline of Anglo-Saxon rugby, ripped apart what France do and tried to install something that is simply not ‘them’.
As a punter, you want to see some magic and, for me, it’s not great for rugby. The sooner the French get back to their ‘Latin’ ways , the better.
Speak to New Zealanders – France, playing the way they should play, are the one side they really fear.
I just don’t see why the French don’t do what they do so well.
The root of this problem lies in their domestic league, where there are too many foreign players in key positions.
I bet if you look through the French league for tighthead props, for example, you’ll find maybe three at the most who are French-qualified.
France almost need to hit rock-bottom first before they can rebuild.
It happened to England in the 1987 World Cup when they were beaten by Wales so badly that they had to come back and have a rethink.
Then came the era of Geoff Cooke, who is really the ‘godfather’ of all that followed for English rugby.