Remember. It was last October 6. The Blues dominated Italy in their last World Cup group match. A 60-7 triumph, the largest in the history of confrontations between the two Latin countries. Why talk about it again at Crunch time? Because, since then, the XV of France has not won on its land. An elimination in the quarter-finals at the Stade de France against South Africa (28-29). A rout in Marseille against Ireland (17-38), at the opening of this Six Nations Tournament. A pitiful draw in Lille against Italy (13-13). Five and a half months have passed. And, from the staff to the players, everyone is eager to return to victory at home. “We are going to find our audience and we want to give them a lot. We know that we have not satisfied them during this Tournament, so we want to finish on a good note,” summarizes the captain of the Blues, Grégory Alldritt.

Everyone knows the importance of the poster placed, since its inauguration in 1906, under the sign of cordial disagreement. Beating England erases many disappointments, and if the XV de la Rose were to lose its buds in Lyon, the supporters of the Blues will grant their forgiveness without batting an eyelid. Everything would be forgotten. Or almost. It will certainly take more than a Crunch win to resolve the disillusionment of the World Cup. Ollivon himself was hesitant. “It’s a bit of a complex question. It’s difficult to answer yes…” Let’s decide for him. It’s no. Beating England, and thus probably finishing this 2024 Tournament in 2nd place, would be good for morale, pleasant for the ego, vital for confidence. But that would obviously not compensate for the disillusionment of October 15, 2023.

Also read: Six Nations: England wants to get out of the rut

However, this does not detract from the importance of this meeting. The victory in Wales last Sunday fueled hopes that depression was on the mend. More drive and commitment, a finally rediscovered desire to play, some neo-Blues with infectious freshness. In short, it was nice to see. It was better, moreover, against an inexperienced and uncertain opponent, who will scrap against Italy, this Saturday at the start of the afternoon, to avoid the wooden spoon. Not the thunderbolts of war, then. Unlike the English who will stand this evening in the capital of Gaul, sure of their strength a week after having deprived the Irish of the Grand Slam.

Fierce and organized, they will be again against the Blues. With a big plus. Their fierce determination to wash away the insult of Twickenham. A year ago, the XV of France won 53 to 10! Inflicting the XV of the Rose and its stunned public with the greatest rout in its history in its desecrated temple. In recent days, by their own admission, the English have talked a lot about this humiliation, even forcing themselves to see it again to fully fill the rage gauge. “We would have been stupid not to do it. It was one of the darkest days of my career and it was clearly not what English rugby should be,” said England captain Jamie George.

So it’s going to be a tough fight at Groupama Stadium. Game of Thrones style. Brutal and merciless. Especially up front, where the two coaches line up phalanxes of hoplites. Very heavy on the scale to hurt badly. Atonio, Meafou, Alldritt, but also Colombe and Taofifenua to finish the undermining work, against Cole, Itoje, Chessum or even Ben Earls, 350 meters gained on the front line in this Tournament! Connected mouthguards are likely to increase the number of concussion alerts on the independent doctor’s control screen…

Are the Blues sufficiently recovered from the trauma of the World Cup to withstand the shock? Against the Welsh, a few defensive approximations make us fear the worst. Fabien Galthié also urged his troops to “be solid and compact” to repel the attacks. He spoke physically. We will add mentally. After the success in Cardiff, the coach recognized that the building remained fragile. “We are still in this difficult period. We still have scars…” His new assistant Patrick Arlettaz warns: “All the alert, excitement and concentration lights are on full light. »

Complete the convalescence in Lyon or relapse, that’s the whole point of this Crunch. “In Cardiff, there were more positives than negatives, but we didn’t hide our faces either,” continues Charles Ollivon. We really want to win this Crunch to end the Tournament on an upward trajectory. And go home with a smile. And a little pride too, because this match really matters to us and to our audience. » Losing him would prolong the disaster. Would bring Galthié’s Bleus have completed an even year by not winning any of their three home matches.