France out to show growing league force

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has been advising France before their Test against England.
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has been advising France before their Test against England.

Laurent Frayssinous is confident his side can demonstrate the growing strength of rugby league in France as he prepares to take charge of his first game as national coach.

The French have conceded 204 points in their last four meetings with England but Frayssinous, who replaced Aurelien Cologni as head coach in February, can feel the wind of change on the back of successful seasons for his former club Catalans Dragons and Super League newcomers Toulouse.

France will still be underdogs in Saturday's clash with Shaun Wane's England team in Perpignan but Frayssinous is preparing for a first victory over an England or Great Britain team since 1990, when they triumphed 25-18 at Headingley.

"We are all competitive," he said. "We prepare to win the game because we want to win the game.

"On the back of that, it's about building as well for the World Cup in 2022.

"It's also been a long time since we played England so we want to show England that we can provide strong opposition and make sure in the future we can play a match every year or every second year."

Frayssinous has appointed a fourth-choice captain in Tony Gigot and has been forced to make a late change with Salford winger Morgan Escare drafted in to replace Ilias Bergal, who picked up a hamstring injury in training.

"We miss some experienced players like Ben Garcia, Theo Fages and Julian Bousquet but it's about preparing ourselves for the World Cup and it will give opportunities to some young French players who started Super League this year and performed," he said.

"It's pretty exciting to be honest. Ideally you want to have your best squad but it's the same for Shaun Wane, it's a long tough season in Super League for the players."

The French went into camp on Tuesday in Prades, at the foothills of the Pyrenees, and Frayssinous has gained input from Leeds assistant coach Sean Long, the former St Helens and Great Britain scrum-half who flew into Perpignan last Sunday.

Frayssinous is also able to tap into the experience of Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson, his predecessor at the Catalans who is France's director of rugby for the World Cup.

"I am in touch with him once a week," Frayssinous said. "We share a lot of things together to make sure we prepare ourselves the best as possible."

Most eyes at Stade Gilbert Brutus will be on the French half-back pairing of Gigot and rising Catalans star Arthur Mourge, who has deputised impressively at full-back for Sam Tomkins in 2021.

However, Frayssinous has opted to stick with the experienced Mark Kheirallah at fullback and believes Mourge's best position is in the halves.

"We had three options at fullback there but I see Arthur as a halfback," he said. "I want to play him in the halves.

"His running game is pretty good and it's up to me to make sure we put a game plan that will suit him against England."

Australian Associated Press