French tested ahead of Wallabies clash

Sun, 04/07/2021, 06:54 am
Murray Wenzel - AAP
by Murray Wenzel - AAP
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Former French captain-turned general manager Raphael Ibanez admits he's never encountered a rugby challenge like it as the side prepares to "turn issue into opportunity" against the Wallabies on Wednesday.

A French outfit boasting 21 uncapped players and missing the likes of star halves Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack will begin a three-Test series against Dave Rennie's men next week.

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They've been quarantining in a Sydney hotel for the last two weeks, constructing their own carpark gym and allowed no more than a fleeting glance at Suncorp Stadium before the game when they arrive in Brisbane late on Tuesday night.

"Rugby Australia did their best to welcome us but on the rugby side, there's no doubt it's impacted preparation," Ibanez said.

"They'll maybe get a quick view of the stadium ... it's not really (like anything I've encountered before) but as I said to the players, you have to expect anything and be ready for anything."

The Waratahs took on the Reds in the Super W Grand Final at Coffs Harbour International Stadium.

The stage is set for the Wallabies, who have been in camp on the Gold Coast for the last three weeks, to regain that winning feeling after mustering just one win among two losses and three draws in Rennie's first summer in charge.

But the French have already played five Tests this year and Ibanez, who confirmed there would be no late additions to the squad, is confident their stocks are more than sufficient.

"Our domestic (Top 14) season was probably the longest ever and we didn't have any other option than leaving some key players at home," he said.

"The goal now is to turn this issue into an opportunity but we believe we have enough talent to match the best.

"This tour will be a success only if we reveal potential, that's the main thing. 

"We know Australia want to play physical, fast and aggressive rugby. We are looking forward to this challenge."


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Brisbane's lifting of lockdown on Saturday means a crowd will be in the stands on Wednesday, welcome news for a visiting side who have grown used to playing in empty stadiums.

France's under-20s have won the last two World Cups, the latest in 2019 against an Australian team that featured current Wallabies Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Trevor Hosea, Noah Lolesio and Lachlan Lonergan.

"The bonding is there, which is very important in these circumstances and they will be facing some players they are used to playing" Ibanez said.

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