World Rugby

Six Nations Preview: Marvelous French Rugby Come Back To Earth In 2023

Six Nations Preview: Marvelous French Rugby Come Back To Earth In 2023

An injury-plagued French side comes into the Guinness Six Nations as deserved favourites but struggle in the Championship before rebounding at the World Cup

Feb 3, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Six Nations Preview: Marvelous French Rugby Come Back To Earth In 2023

Coach: Fabien Galthie

Captain: Antoine Dupont

Home Stadium: Stade de France 

Our final team preview focuses on reigning Grand Slam Champions France who enters into arguably the most pivotal year in French Rugby history as one of the form teams in the game. 

Project 2023 has been in full swing since the announcement that France would host the game’s biggest tournament in 2017. 

Aligning their incredibly powerful club owners with their international vision, the French Rugby Federation must now deliver a breath-taking 2023 to repay the faith. 

Not since the All Blacks of 2011 has an international team faced more pressure both internally and externally. 

Failure to land a maiden World Cup title will lead to questions being asked as to whether the French will ever get over the hump. 

Yet before the festivities get underway in Paris on September 8th against the mighty All Blacks. Les Bleus have the small matter of defending their Six Nations title amidst a mini-injury crisis. 

2022 Tale Of The Tape 

Thirteen wins from thirteen outings between November 2021 – November 2022 is a serious innings for any side. 

Victories over every other major Rugby nation in that span offer an insight into why this French side entered 2023 as the presumed best team in the world. 

Spearheading the blue machine is a generation of world-class talent who have dominated all before them from underage rugby to right through to the test arena. 

Key among the new golden generation is the halfback duo of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack who at the present moment are possibly the best duo in the game. 

A World Player Of The Year award in 2021 for the 26-year-old Dupont was a reflection of just how far French Rugby has come from the debacle of the early to mid-2010s. 

At times Dupont has proven to simply be unplayable. Such has been the dominance of the scrumhalf that comparisons to the great Dan Carter are not only justified but perhaps underselling his prowess. 

During 2022 Dupont was once again at his best and despite losing out to Ireland’s Josh van der Flier was right there as the best player on the planet. 

One result does shine brighter than any other throughout the past calendar year. That being the victory over the immensely physical Springboks, a side that many felt could be the one to derail the giant French pack. 

South Africa are World Champions for a reason, possessing five players deep at every position the Boks have shown the template for how a successful title run is done.   

Crucially France quelled the Bok pack in Marseille en route to a 30 – 26 victory to ensure that no stone remained unturned in their restless pursuit of excellence. 

Greatest Strength 

Power, power, power and some more power, it is no secret that Galthie and his coaching staff have gone about building perhaps the most physical French side ever assembled.

Hyperbole is unavoidable when speaking about this French side's physicality and skill level.

Yes, the backline is stacked with talented operators, but this French side is built around the devastating power of their set-piece game and gargantuan ball carriers. 

As Ireland found to their detriment early on in last season’s Six Nations, failure to match the physicality from the onset and the result can get away from you awfully quickly. 

In the front row the likes of Uini Antonio, Dani Priso, Reda Wardi and Cyril Baille are giant immovable objects that batter opposition scrums seemingly at will. 

Behind them giants Paul Willemse, Romain Taofifenua, Thomas Lavault and Thibaud Flament are all over 6’6” and weigh in at close 280lbs a piece. 

In the backrow, the dynamic threats are endless with Gregory Alldritt right up there with the best Number Eights in the game today. Beside him, Charles Ollivon and Anthony Jelonch offer further line-out options with Ollivon coming in at 6’6” and Jelonch at 6’4”. 

In addition to their prowess in the air, the back-row trio are dominant tacklers of the highest order. Carrying out Shaun Edwards defensive game plan with aplomb, the French pack is a nasty beast to contend with. 

Potential Weakness 

Complacency is a trait more associated with French teams of the past than this one. 

Now regarded as the best team in the World having not lost since Scotland put them to the sword in March 2021. Galthie’s side could be forgiven for thinking that they are unbeatable even in the face of nearly a dozen injuries to frontline players.

Combining the injuries with a lack of urgency, Les Bleus could well lack the cohesiveness of seasons gone by. 

Should this be the case, all it will take is a slight dip in form for the losses to pile-up and with them a major dent into the French armour at just the wrong time. 


Injuries accounted for, France enters this season’s tournament tipped to defend their title and rightly so given their run of form over the past two seasons. 

Despite the fanfare surrounding Les Bleus, there are a few reasons to be concerned about their hopes this season. 

Firstly, trips away to Dublin and London await, both of these clashes are certainly not ones that you can circle as guaranteed victories. 

In fact, given the injury toll, they are experiencing and the quality of the two sides facing them it would not be shocking at all for them to lose both. 

Away to Italy first up is traditionally as easy of a start as there is but given Italy’s progress it could prove to be a tougher test than many expect. 

Scotland has the potential to beat anybody on their day but in reality, this French side should still have too much power for them in Paris. 

Wales is, of course, an unknown given the return of Gatland, but they too will struggle in Paris, especially at the end of the tournament given the age profile of their squad. 

As such the French will win at least three fixtures but it is difficult to see them winning away at both Ireland and England. 

Given that Ireland look so cohesive at the moment and England is set for a bounce back under Steve Borthwick. France will finish 4th joint for wins with Scotland but ultimately lose out on points difference in what will be a shocking turn that ultimately propels France to re-evaluate their game and ultimately make them more dangerous at the World Cup. 


Forwards: Grégory Alldritt, Uini Atonio, Cyril Baille, Gaëtan Barlot, Teddy Baubigny, Alexandre Becognee, Paul Boudehent, Yacouba Camara, Bastien Chalureau, Dylan Cretin, François Cros, Sipili Falatea, Thibaud Flament, Mohamed Haouas, Anthony Jelonch, Thomas Jolmes, Thomas Lavault, Sekou Macalou, Julien Marchand, Charles Ollivon, Dany Priso, Romain Taofifenua, Reda Wardi, Paul Willemse 

Backs: Pierre-Louis Barassi, Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Romain Buros, Léo Coly, Julien Delbouis, Ethan Dumortier, Antoine Dupont (c), Gaël Fickou, Emilien Gailleton, Antoine Hastoy, Matthieu Jalibert, Melvyn Jaminet, Nolann Le Garrec, Matthis Lebel, Yoram Moefana, Romain Ntamack, Damian Penaud, Thomas Ramos

 Written by Philip Bendon