Jean-Baptiste Sarrazin, with AFP 21:28 p.m., March 20, 2023, modified at 21:32 p.m., March 20, 2023While Ireland, the world's leading nation, has concretized its superiority with a title and a Grand Slam, the VI Nations Tournament 2023 allowed the Blues to gauge themselves one last time before the 2023 World Cup in France. A successful tournament that was hailed in "Europe 1 Sport" by René Bouscatel, the president of the Rugby League.
With less than six months to go before the World Cup in France (8 September - 28 October), the Clover XV has emerged as a favourite for the title, which it has never won, alongside hosts France, the New Zealand All Blacks and the reigning champions South Africa. The Blues, second in the competition, did not demerit and confirmed their good form a few months before the big deadline. "I am happy that we are second, it bodes well for the World Cup," said René Bouscatel, president of the National Rugby League, in the program Europe 1 Sport (every evening from 20 hours to 23 hours).
The XV of France is "perfectly prepared", said René Bouscatel the latter. "The balance sheet is positive. There are four wins with three away games," said Mathieu Blin. Despite the many injuries like that of Gabin Villière, the staff managed to overcome these hard blows. "We felt that we had a real reservoir," said Mathieu Blin.
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Ireland at the top level
In five victories, four of which were improved, Andy Farrell's men made their class speak, setting a new record for points scored in the Tournament (27, out of 28 possible). Thanks to an impressive mastery of its playing system, players in full talent (how not to mention Josh van der Flier, Jonathan Sexton, Caelan Doris?) and a respected and confident coach, Ireland can only calmly see its future.
On the side of Scotland, Gregor Townsend's men, currently fifth in the world rankings, have clearly passed a milestone during this 2023 edition. Already, they have started by repeating for the third consecutive year the always difficult task of winning against England (29-23), and what is more at Twickenham. But above all, they managed to continue, which they could not do previously, by winning clearly at Murrayfield against Wales (35-7).
Stopped then by the Blues in Saint-Denis (32-21) then by Ireland in Edinburgh (7-22) before dominating Italy (26-14), the teammates of Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell deserve their third place in this Tournament. Driven in particular by their colossal winger Duhan van der Merwe, their progress is undeniable, both from the point of view of physical commitment, efficiency, and offensive animation. We will have to be wary of them in the autumn at the World Cup, where they were poured into Pool B.
England at a crossroads
Steve Borthwick knew, when he took the reins of a Rose XV in crisis after a 2022 season well below his standards, that he would have his work cut out for him. After the defeat (53-10) received at Twickenham by the France, the coach could only note "the gap" between England and the best teams in the world and the workload that will have to be accomplished before the World Cup.
Winners of Italy (31-14) and Wales (20-10), the English were hesitant in their game, too vague, as well as in the choice of their leaders, between Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell in particular. Sign of hope, however, they did more than hang Ireland (29-16) in Dublin on the last day.
Wales under construction
Defeated in their first three matches of the competition, scoring only one try each time, the Welsh have shown a worrying offensive and defensive weakness, having won the title just two years ago. Since then, the Leek XV has experienced several phases of turbulence - the latest of which have been nothing less than accusations of sexism within the Federation (WRU) and a threat of strike by players during the Tournament - which have affected the players as well as the staff.
"I don't know if I managed to manage that," admitted coach Warren Gatland, called to the rescue three months ago, in the columns of the Team on Saturday. "So much has happened throughout this tournament, behind the scenes, and it has had an emotional impact on the players." A mental trainer, or even a whole squad, will not be too much to boost the morale of the troops in the run-up to the World Cup, which the Welsh will begin on September 10 against Fiji.