Blues – William Servat: “South Africa has served us well”
It’s good to live on the Landes coast, and last week when France’s fifteen trained in Capbreton, its conquest and special tasks coach William Servat was the morning type. Having recently extended his contract with the Blues until 2027, he took to the phone early in the morning to talk rugby, ambitions, preparation and scrums. The conversation can be found in full on the rugby podcast TeamCrunch and here is an unpublished excerpt.
“Does being in 2023 change everyday life?
Enthusiasm is all around us. We feel it. In Toulouse, for example, there is a countdown to the World Championships. But we are here to prepare for the tournament. This is the first and most important competition on our list. The phrase “World Cup” is used, but only around the staff. This does not go beyond logistical preparation. The term was not and will not be used in relation to players.
But this remains the final preparation before the World Cup, so it may seem paradoxical, right?
No doubt we all have the idea in a small corner of our mind that we are preparing for the World Cup… But the goal is a Tournament that promises to be huge. For example, we gave the players a short presentation about a specific case around the cervical, based on scientific research, which should accompany them over time. It belongs to all of them, tomorrow’s business. Of course we can bring him back to the World Cup, but we are thinking about physical integrity and performance. Our work goes further than that.
How was the preparation for the tournament organized?
During the year, we are rebuilding our training globally with Thibaut Giroud (stage director), we work hard with our high-performance video analytics. As the tournament approaches, it becomes more concrete with this first game against Italy. This is a team that is playing better and better, beating the big powers (Wales, March 2022 and Australia, November 2022). Our Grand Slam last year was clearly satisfactory, but that was last year! We will have another visit there. To have a behavior at altitude, we prepare for it in the best way.
“Today the teams adapt to us (…) and we think about strategic developments”
Did the November tour, especially against South Africa (30-26, November 12 in Marseille) change the way you prepare and look?
It was still a special match… When you’re going to play South Africa, you know you’re going to have to put up an extraordinary fight, you’re going to face players who develop physical dominance. They marked us… These teams are fascinating to play. I’m a big believer in soul attachment and we’ve seen it. What is the ability of our team to surpass itself? We want to set our tone. It is important to ask yourself what the French team gave today. We have to be considered hard to play, and we’re starting to get on that roster. Because, of course, we have performance, but also less rigidity when we hide behind French whimsy. And that is what is left of South Africa. It helped us a lot in terms of how we approach matches.
How disruptive can opposing teams’ matchups be?
Italy are doing incredible performances, England and Wales have changed their squads, Ireland is the first country in the world. It will be complicated to say the least. We will have six days to prepare for the match in Ireland and it will be an interesting match. We were a re-emerging nation at the beginning of our mandate. Today, teams adapt to us. In small details, in concrete things. That’s why we are so structured and focused on our team. We work on the spectrum of the team, our image, our strengths. In relation to the behavior of our enemies in November, we are thinking about strategic developments. Without changing our game, not to be structured, but on adaptations and strategic changes. Only at the arbitration level. Joel Judge (Head of Referees at World Rugby) traveled around Europe to see how the teams work and for us the subtleties and details are important. »