Six Nations: France are serial winners but bond means more, says Kayser
France come into this Six Nations as defending Grand Slam champions, something they haven’t been able to do since 2011.
Les Bleus are in scintillating form having gone through the entirety of last year without defeat. But the stakes are higher in 2023, which brings a World Cup in which they’ll play hosts, and the pressure to succeed is on.
There has never quite been this kind of feeling around a French side before. Yes, they’ve been to a couple of World Cup finals and have graced the game with some of the most beautiful rugby one can remember, but now they have depth, power and a desire which hasn’t been seen for decades.
“There’s one vocabulary I thought I would never use to describe France: reliable,” said 47-cap former hooker Benjamin Kayser.
“They really can cope with the pressure, they can stick to their guns, they’ve faced adversity – very complicated situations – and they’ve dealt with it.
“There’s a team of boys that honestly love each other, they genuinely do.”
But as with any winning run, it must come to an end at some point. And while fans of Les Bleus will be hoping it doesn’t come anytime soon, they’d rather the rude awakening now than at the World Cup.
It’s difficult for coaches to keep both eyes on the Six Nations when there is a World Cup on the horizon, and some suggest France could use some of their matches to try different combinations and tactics ahead of the showpiece event on home soil in the autumn.
A winning habit is important, however, and Kayser insists that it must continue to be a priority for his former team.
“I think they [this France side] are different. I am not sure they’re that obsessed about never losing a game – I don’t think it’s their day-to-day stuff,” said Kayser, speaking on behalf of Sage Insights.
“Winning needs to become a habit and if you do lose the game you take the consequences after, but not before the game by saying ‘if we lose that one it’s not the end of the world’. That’s a different mentality.”
France are a different beast at the moment and are up there alongside Ireland as the favoured sides not just to win this year’s Championship but to challenge for the Grand Slam too.
Amid all the contentment in rugby across the Channel at the moment, it is hard to imagine the stress of competing in a Six Nations tournament just months before a home World Cup, as England’s class of 2015 know, having been beaten to the Six Nations title on points difference just months before staging the biggest tournament of all.