The French have become the laughing stock of world rugby after a series of failed coaching appointments, but it could all have been so different.
Successive Head Coaches have failed to properly utilise the available talent at their disposal, particularly in the backline as this list of players so glaringly highlights. The bulk of this backline could have been consistently playing together since the 2011 World Cup where they nearly went all the way, instead most of these extremely talented players have been left in the international wilderness…
It may come as a shock to you, but Parra is still only 27 despite seemingly having been around forever. He made his France debut in 2008 and has since gone on to amass 66 caps, although this figure should be much higher given the way he has been under-utilised recently. He still remains France’s most consistent scrum half, and has a decent boot to boot. His experience would also be a huge positive given he is known as Le Petit General.
At 29, Trinh-Duc’s 51 caps may sound fairly impressive, but in reality it is a damning indictment of the terrible decisions made by successive Head Coaches. He is by far the most gifted attacking French fly half of his generation and has proved for both club and country he can compete at the very top level. Unfortunately the conservative style of St Andre reduced Trinh-Duc to a bit part player despite his ability to get the backline moving.
Medard is another who suffered under the St Andre regime, and is only just now coming back into regular contention under former club coach Guy Noves. He is another player who has been involved since 2008 and could have formed impressive combinations with the likes of Parra and Trinh-Duc. Whilst he is now 29, the hope must be that he can still be a force on the wing whilst still covering full back until someone else can properly break through.
Fofana was late to really blossom so has himself to blame in part for not having more caps, but in recent seasons he has been one of France’s most potent attacking threats. Unfortunately, he was largely handicapped by having an inconsistent fly half inside him, and the somewhat one dimensional Mathieu Bastareaud outside him. Hopefully he will now be given time to flourish with more talented backs around him.
At just 21 Fickou still has his best years ahead of him, but already looks like become another ‘what if’ player for France. If given a consistent run in the side in his prefered 13 shirt, then Fickou could become a key figure in the backline over the next couple of World Cup cycles. Unfortunately, we are increasingly being given the impression that even Noves would rather opt for a outside centre who offers something a little different.
He may not be the most popular bloke on the planet, but there’s no doubting Huget is a huge talent. Fortunately, he is one of the few French stars who has been consistently selected, and in his prefered position. Injuries have hampered his season to date, however if he can get fit again and get a continuous run in the side, he could do some serious damage outside the likes of Trinh-Duc and Fofana.
Despite being one of France’s few top class full backs, Dulin has amassed just 24 caps over the last four years. Injuries have held him back this year, however we must hope that Noves looks to utilise him to his full potential. At just 25, his best years should still be ahead of him, and with the right players around him in the backline, we could see him flourish and become one of the best international full backs around.