- For the first time in a week, no member of the XV of France (player and staff) has tested positive for Covid-19.
- The Six Nations Committee will decide on Wednesday whether the match against Scotland will take place at the Stade de France on Sunday.
- If necessary, Fabien Galthié will have to compose without eight holders of the victory in Ireland, including all the first row.
Vying for his first Grand Slam in a thousand years, the XV of France may have messed up everything in less than a week, without it being possible to clearly establish the crest line between involuntary negligence and culpable violation of the rules of the sanitary bubble required by the Ministry of Sports. 20 minutes takes stock of the situation less than a week before the match against Scotland, if it takes place
Is this the end of the bleeding of positive players?
Drum rolls Monday morning by opening our mailbox, with the “health update from XV de France” received at 8:07 am. “Following the RT-PCR tests carried out on Sunday evening, all the players and management tested negative.” Glory to you, O god of covids. The counter therefore officially stops at eleven players who tested positive in addition to four staff members (Galthié, Sevat, Ghezal, a physical trainer). In a mess
Dupont, Marchand, Haouas, Baille, Vincent, Villière, Ollivon, Mauvaka, Taofifenua, Dulin, Pesenti
Little thought for the last city, who is announced by his club that he is positive even before taking the plane in Pau (there are some who have tried), when he had been called to replace a positive colleague . Are we going to stop there? To have. Aware of the danger, the FFR decided to test everyone once a day until Wednesday, before a final force swab on Friday.
However, all the players were released into the wild during a long weekend extended last week, and some videos / photos posted on social networks give rise to fears of a distant respect for basic precautionary instructions. Acrobatic response from Serge Simon, the vice-president of the FFR, in Midi Olympique: “Sacking the players was a way to avoid interactions between them”. Getting out of the bubble to avoid contamination, is that a good idea? Some rumors rustle anyway of a quite relative tightness of said bubble the week before Ireland in Marcoussis, but chuuuuuuuut, Roxana Maracineanu is not aware.
Can the match against Scotland still be postponed?
No idea. As rugby remains rugby, it is impossible to know the detailed health protocol that must sleep somewhere in a drawer of the organizer of the competition. Is there a number of positive tests from which we postpone where we cancel, like in football? A priori, no.
Still in Midol, Serge Simon nonetheless tells us about the existence of the TOG, the “Testing Oversight Group” which collects medical information on the six teams involved in the tournament every week. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday. And if we are to believe the member of the medical commission of the FFR Eric Caumes, who sometimes advances a little too much in the media (here on RTL), the debates raged in the French camp to define the position of the Federation: “I recommended that the match not take place, first for medical reasons and then for equity, because many key players of the France team are absent”
It’s a good leg for the Scots, who for their part put pressure on the tournament via a well-felt press release so that the match is played on the scheduled date. Indeed, everyone has their little worries, and the Scottish clubs have obtained the right to recover a dozen players on the weekend of March 6 or 7, the only one still free by the end of the tournament. If we stick to ethics, it would therefore be up to France to try its luck with 10 players less, rather than its opponent.
However, the VI Nations committee left a little room in its last communication: “If the match could not take place on the scheduled date, it would be moved to the earliest possible date”. An unlikely scenario, despite everything, if the next batch of tests for the Blues is once again 100% negative.
What will the XV of France look like on Sunday?
Assuming that the meeting will be held at all costs, the French staff will have to make an even more impressive adaptation than in the fall, when the whole team had to be changed for the end of the competition under the agreements made by the top 14.
Players are not entitled to contact training until at least Wednesday, the usual day of the high intensity session set up by Galthié. Not sure, moreover, that the latter can direct it even from afar. First declared positive case, the coach of the Blues must satisfy this Monday a PCR test establishing his “non-contagiousness” (according to Doctor Simon), before returning to the field. Same punishment for William Servat and Karim Ghezal, but later in the week. For the moment, only Laurent Labit (rear coach), and Shaun Edwards have the right to leave their barracks and supervise each other truncated sessions, made of work at a distance and without a ball.
The starting team against Scotland now. The virus having had the good idea to swarm in the starting XV above all, half of the holders of Dublin are unfit for the practice, as they say. The most damaging absentees? Antoine Dupont, of course, aka the best player in the world, Dulin, our back base sniper, and our whole front line, while we’re at it. This will give a rather baroque starting team (Danty in the center, Crétin in the 3rd row, Bougarit in the heel…), in charge of preserving the hopes of Grand Slam against a team annoying as possible. Good luck.