Brian O’Driscoll says Fabien Galthie ‘in trouble’ with France ‘unravelling’

Colin Newboult
Under pressure France head coach Fabien Galthie.

Under pressure France head coach Fabien Galthie.

Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll believes that Fabien Galthie is in danger of the sack following their dreadful Six Nations Championship so far.

Les Bleus went into the tournament as favourites, but they are fortunate not to be going into the fourth round, having lost all three matches.

They suffered a heavy defeat to Ireland in the Six Nations opener before escaping Murrayfield with a narrow 20-16 triumph after a TMO call went in their favour.

Almost embarrassed by Italy

France were then expected to easily overcome Italy in their next match, but they came up against a resilient Azzurri side, who nearly snatched a late win.

Paolo Garbisi’s last-minute penalty, with the game tied at 13-13, hit the upright, and denied the visitors a famous victory.

This campaign has come off the back of their Rugby World Cup failure, where they were ousted at the quarter-final stage by South Africa.

Galthie came in for criticism following that defeat and the pressure has only increased on the head coach during the Six Nations.

Although French Rugby president Florian Gill insists that his job is “absolutely” safe, O’Driscoll is not so sure.

“I would say he’s in trouble, I really would. They were lots of peoples tips for the tournament, many people were saying they were going to win the Grand Slam and going to bounce back from their disappointment,” he told Off The Ball.

“It’s hung over them. I’m not saying it’s unravelled, but it feels like it’s [in the process of] unravelling.”

France have two games to rescue their tournament when they take on Wales and England.

On the form of the previous couple of years, Les Bleus would be expected to beat those sides comfortably, but that is not the case in 2024.

“I’m sure he must be nervous. We’re all talking about it, I’m sure over there – although I haven’t seen any of the French reports – they must be saying he’s under serious pressure,” O’Driscoll said.

“Being at the (Ireland-Wales) game with Jamie Roberts, all of a sudden he’s like, ‘Wales can beat these,’ and they can. They still have to go to Cardiff, the last game is England.

“England have been disappointing, so maybe there will be a reaction in Lyon, but I would be concerned for Galthie.

“They have such great athletes, so I think it’s a great frustration for everyone that if you did put a Joe Schmidt or an Andy Farrell in there, and gave a little bit of shape and a little bit of detail to what they’re doing on top of their talent, quality and X-factor… you’ve got a superstar team.

“They actually look a little bit unfit as well. I’m really, really disappointed in them.”

Reasons for their struggles

France have been without some key players following Antoine Dupont’s switch to sevens and the injury to fly-half Romain Ntamack, but O’Driscoll believes that there is much more to it than that.

“When France have been at their best under Galthie, particularly in 2022, they played with a huge confidence and belief. Yes, there was a good bit of off-the-cuff, but it felt as if there was some sort of structure,” he added.

“I think they’re a team that looks low on confidence, they really do. (Matthieu) Jalibert obviously went off injured, but there’s a tentativeness to them.

“My player of the tournament at the start, (Jonathan) Danty, has been invisible and obviously got himself a red card. He’s got previous having got a yellow card against Leicester in the Champions Cup for a high shot.

“I’m surprised that he stayed with the tried and tested, I was sure that there was going to be an integration of some of these younger players that are emerging from the U20s, and blood them in, akin to what Ireland have done.

“You don’t need to have wholesale changes, but to go with pretty much the same backline that competed in the World Cup when you’ve got other guys starting to put their hand up, particularly (Nicolas) Depoortere.

“He’s a really good player, a big, rangy guy, and was part of the training squad. I was just really surprised after the first game in particular that they didn’t go, ‘this guy’s one for the future, (Gael) Fickou is off the boil.’

“(Damian) Penaud is unrecognisable compared to his Bordeaux form, it really is [hard to believe]. They were going to be missing Ntamack and Dupont for sure, but it can’t be just that. It does feel as though there’s something awry.”

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