France may be without star halves Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack for July’s Test series but in Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson’s eyes, the French could pick three teams capable of competing with the Wallabies.
The French squad that will face Dave Rennie’s side in three Tests in 11 days were due to board a flight bound for Australia on Sunday but Toulouse’s win over Bordeaux in the Top 14 semi-final means Dupont and Ntamack will not make the trip.
France are set to play the Wallabies in July.Credit:AP
Rugby Australia have crowed about the talent developed through the Junior Wallabies program, after Australia reached a maiden World Rugby Under 20 Championship decider in 2019.
But that team fell to France in the decider, and they won the title the year before too.
“They’ve always had talent but now they have a really gifted group of kids coming through,” Johnson said.
“They came through that under-20s system. They won two on the bounce and the rule of thumb is if you have two good under-20s teams on the bounce, you will have a good Test team in a few years time. That’s the rule of thumb.
“If you have a look now, they’re playing a traditional French style: ball off the ground, a very powerful game. They have a young, talented group of players that play instinctively and the style that people would perceive as traditionally French.
“They’re the most dangerous side in Europe. Without doubt.”
France have called upon almost all of the depth Johnson detailed. The 42-man squad that has flown to Australia features 22 uncapped players.
Defence will be key to stopping the French, whether it’s their best available side or not. And the defences of Australia’s Super Rugby sides have left a lot to be desired this year.
Collectively, Australian teams conceded an average of almost 40 points per game against New Zealand teams in Super Rugby Trans Tasman.
“It’s no secret that keeping opposition points down is so critical,” Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said.
“If you (allow) four tries, you have to score five to win and so on. If you keep them to nothing, you just need a penalty goal and as simple as that sounds, we forget it sometimes.
“Because we love the fantasy rugby of the world. It makes tries, try assists and everything look like the pinnacle.
“But some of the stuff that people don’t see that we might only see or none of your teammates see that can lead to a try or turning the ball over – we know how effective turnover ball is – that’s what we have to put importance on.”
Rennie has called two players into his squad at Sanctuary Cove as injury cover.
Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney will cover for fellow fresh face Feleti Kaitu’u and Irae Simone has replaced Izaia Perese, who suffered a subluxation of his shoulder in the Waratahs’ final match of the season.
Meanwhile, Rugby Australia plan to take the second Test against France – scheduled for Melbourne’s AAMI Park – to Canberra or Newcastle should the ground be unavailable due to the state’s COVID-19 outbreak.
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