Every Wednesday, and sometimes a second time in the week, the Blues are entitled to a session at a high pace. A timed and sequenced session. Story.
The brightness begins to decrease in Marcoussis. The players of the XV of France leave their residence, direction the training ground Pierre Camou. It does not joke in the ranks. The faces are serious, focused. They know what awaits them once the few steps to access the lawn. The famous high intensity training. One hour thoroughly. Demanding.
While the players are preparing, the manager of the XV of France welcomes the journalists. Parked on the blue athletics track, a cart with a large screen on which the coming session is sequenced, timed. Raphaël Ibanez deciphers it for the layman. “It’s about finding a balance between physical development and rugby to prepare for the very high intensity of international matches. Wednesday is always very consistent. ”
On the following tables, the distances to be covered and the durations of effort are displayed. It will begin with five minutes of physical activation under the leadership of William Servat, the forward coach. The theme of the day? Chesting. One-on-one combat workshops in the clear. Then five minutes of energy drilled by Welshman Shaun Edwards, Mr. Defense. A big sausage to tackle, a player with a shield and a last one in charge of securing the ruck. And five minutes of offensive circuit. Skills to perfect body language and individual technique.
Four six-minute sequences, for a total of 24 minutes
But these fifteen minutes are only the appetizer. Will follow a training “with real bullets” fifteen against fifteen. The 29 able-bodied Blues (Anthony Bouthier is preserved after his concussion protocol and Killian Geraci dispensed for a muscle alert) are supplemented by players from France 7 and Bleuets, these players under 20 years of age “with high potential”. The actual session will be broken down into four sequences. Each will do 2 minutes at full speed, 45 seconds of recovery, then 1 and 1 minute, then 2 and 1, and, finally, 1 minute. Or 6 minutes of play. For four throws, or sixteen in the end.
“It’s about going very, very quickly,” continues the ex-hooker and captain of the XV of France. There is a requirement for precision. The aim is to put the players under pressure. ” The warm-ups have started. The players do not say a word, repeat their efforts, with encouragement. “Battle, battle, battle”, yells Servat to the wrestlers. On the skills side, the concentration is such that hardly a ball falls to the ground. In the tackle workshop, the dull sound of impacts on the tubes indicates the pace.
“Action! Action! ” exhorts Fabien Galthié
The fifteen minutes have passed, it’s time for high intensity training. The holders for Saturday blue chasuble against the substitutes and other “training partners” white chasuble. All numbered. The assistants are scattered on the ground, the other members of the staff around. Fabien Galthié takes position in the center. Two balloons in the hands. And let’s go, under the orders of a real referee, requisitioned to make the playing conditions even more real.
As soon as a ball goes into touch, a small forward is committed, a try is scored, a new ball immediately arises, sent from the touch. No downtime, no recovery. Thoroughly. Always. Until the small bell which indicates the end of the first two minutes. The players catch their breath. Fabien Galthié, him, trotting towards the other side of the field. “White melee!” The next time it will be “Blue key”, and so on.
When the ball is in play, the coach does not release the grip. “Action! Action! ” Races, replacements, tackles. The intensity is high. It would be better. On the edge of the key, a computer plays the snitches. At the end of the training, each player will know how far he has traveled, at what average speed, at what maximum speed… At each scrum, an assistant rushes with a large tablet to film the building from above. Plans that will be used by William Servat to correct a posture, refine positions.
«You are not tired!»
On the pitch, the players communicate a lot with each other. A placement, a warning, a support. It speaks loudly. The session is now coming to an end. Huge spotlights pierce the darkness in which the smoke of sweaty bodies rises. “Last block. Clean ! Clean! ”Urges Servat. “You are not tired!” Yells Fabien Galthié. One last effort. One last ring. The players, their faces hollowed out by the effort, move towards the sidelines. It only lasted an hour. But the volume, the requirement, the commitment were there. Far from the plan-plan sessions of Fabien Galthié’s predecessors who were above all careful not to cause injuries. For the Blues too often physically dominated by their opponents …
“This is the goal of the week, says a few minutes later, his face still red with the effort, hooker Camille Chat. Wednesday is always the biggest day. We put a maximum of intensity to get as close as possible to the conditions of the match. ” The opener Matthieu Jalibert completes. “There is a big volume, a lot of races. That’s what it takes to be ready on D-Day ” Saturday, against Ireland. The final victory in the Six Nations Tournament at stake. Well worth this hour of suffering…