Paris (AFP)

Return to rugby: relieved of any fault after the many Covid-19 contaminations in its ranks, the XV of France takes the path to Marcoussis on Sunday, before his duel on March 13 in England.

In which state ?


More than half of the infected holders

Twelve players contracted Covid-19 before the postponement of the Six Nations Tournament match scheduled against Scotland last Sunday, including eight holders.

The entire front row - Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas - was hit, as well as scrum half Antoine Dupont, captain and third row Charles Ollivon, center Arthur Vincent, winger Gabin Villière and full back Brice Flax.

Will they all be recalled from Sunday in Essonne?

The replacement right pillar Demba Bamba was injured again (right hamstring).

But coach Fabien Galthié, himself contaminated, can count on returns from the infirmary.

Opener Romain Ntamack, absent for two months (jaw), and third row François Cros (foot) must resume competition on Saturday with Stade Toulouse.

And the hooker of Racing 92 Camille Chat (calf), lining of Marchand in Blues, applies for the trip to Toulon on Saturday.


Balance physical levels

The Blues have not played since February 14 and the victory in Ireland (15-13).

The physical levels will be different, between the contaminated, the contact cases - isolated at first - and those which will tread the grounds of Top 14 this weekend.

For the opening match of the 18th day Montpellier-Clermont Friday (8:45 p.m.), three are mobilized: Anthony Bouthier (holder) and Paul Willemse (substitute), respectively back and second line from Hérault, as well as the Auvergne scrum-half Sébastien Bézy (substitute).

Montpellierers Vincent and Haouas are absent.

Ditto for the Clermont winger Damian Penaud, who had not contracted the virus.

In Toulouse, Dupont, Baille and Marchand resumed individual training on Thursday and should be ready for collective sessions in Marcoussis.

In La Rochelle, the N.8 Grégory Alldritt will not play.

In Toulon, Ollivon either a priori either.

Villière has a chance.

Considered as "contact cases" then tested negative, Racingmen Bernard Le Roux and Teddy Thomas are "operational" but not sure of being lined up on Saturday.

Ditto for the center of the French Stadium Gaël Fickou.


Post-Covid recovery can be difficult

It is more or less trying depending on the case.

For Argentina Racing 92 international winger Juan Imhoff, infected in October with "a lot of symptoms", "it was horrible".

"When someone is used to training two or three times a day and he has to stay locked up and not move from the sofa, it is sure that the recovery is very complicated", a- he explained Thursday during a press point.

England will not have this kind of inconvenience to deal with between now and the duel at Twickenham on March 13.

His last match was last Saturday (defeat in Wales) and an English league day is scheduled for this weekend.

The Saracens, major international suppliers (Owen Farrell, Billy and Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje ...), are due to start the second division season on Saturday.


Will the cluster episode leave traces?

"I do not sincerely think for the players I have had on the phone. On the contrary, I feel a lot of determination and (a feeling) of injustice on their part," replied the president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR ) Bernard Laporte, after his meeting on Friday with ministers Jean-Michel Blanquer and Roxana Maracineanu.

To be confirmed during the Tournament where the Blues can still achieve a first Grand Slam since 2010. Do their health problems risk polluting relations between the FFR and the clubs, forced to release their players for an additional date and the postponement of France-Scotland?

"The situation in the France team is annoying and frustrating because there is the said and the unspoken," notably grumbled the president of Toulon Bernard Lemaître.

© 2021 AFP