The president of the FFR joined the Blues in Japan earlier this week. The former coach, in tracksuit to attend the training of the captain, took a few minutes to confide in Figaro.
Le Figaro. How do you judge the state of mind of the France group?
Bernard Laporte: I saw him from the outside. I am with them without being, I do not participate in everything. But since the beginning of the preparation I notice indeed that reigns an excellent state of mind in this group. This is a good thing. It's not enough, but without it, it's difficult. So this cement exists. There is an atmosphere. Bernard Le Roux just told me it was great we are like a club team. It works. After three and a half months, that, at least, it exists.
The XV of France is in the quarterfinals. Now it's a bonus?
We must push the ambition a little further. Our World Cup is successful. When you come out of a hen with England and Argentina, it would be bad faith to say the opposite. She is successful so. But now, if we want it to be successful, we have to go to the semifinals. Which means, at the very least, playing the small final behind. So go to the end of this World Cup.
"70% of these players will still be there in 2023. This is obviously a very good thing"
What do you think of this team from Wales?
This is a very good team, which has just won the Grand Slam in the Six Nations Tournament. But I also remember the first forty minutes at the Stade de France last February (16-0 for the Blues, defeated 19-24, Edited). Where at half-time nobody, me first, thought we were going to lose and they were going to do the Grand Slam. Often it does not matter … It must be respected, it's a great team but, a quarterfinal World Cup, for me it's 50/50. Of the four games, I will not bet on anyone. I hear that Japan has no chance. I think that South Africans must prepare for a funny match …
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Several young people – Dupont, Ntamack, Penaud, Alldritt … – reveal themselves. Is this World Cup a launching pad for the 2023 race in France?
Be careful, it's not a will. In the France team, we must ensure the present because it must always win. But, indeed, when your best players, they are young, that's good. This generation is ten years old, so it is a guarantee of the future. And playing a World Cup at 20, 21 or 22 years is a considerable experience, especially at these positions. So, when I say that, without having sought to do it on purpose, 70% of these players will be there in 2023, it is obviously a very good thing.
"It's been 8-10 years since the French team is in trouble. It has to restart"
Some Blues suggest that their motivation is to silence critics. What do you think ?
The fight is in the arena, it is not elsewhere. Elsewhere, everyone has the right to think, to say, to write what he wants. But the only ones who will judge you are the Welsh. I really hope that our players want to win over them, compared to France. Because they represent it. Not for other reasons.
A victory would be welcome for the image at half mast of French rugby …
Of course it's important. It's been 8-10 years since the French team is in trouble. It must restart. Going to the semifinals would bring hope for 2023 but also, in the shorter term, for the next tournament which starts in three and a half months (Sunday 2 February at the Stade de France against England, Ed.).
Jacques Brunel said Friday at a press conference that he had "the intuition" that this team from France would surprise. Do you share this impression?
I still have the intuition that it will be well. I am a positive. When I get up in the morning, I always tell myself that everything will be fine. Otherwise I will not get up (laughs). So yes, I think so too.