PARIS – After a miserable 2018 and on the back of a 3-0 drubbing in New Zealand in June, France know exactly what they need to do against South Africa on Saturday.
“We have to win,” says back-row forward Artur Iturria, who is expected to start against the Boks in Paris.
“We have very good players and a good system. If we bring all the ingredients together at the same time, I don’t see why we cannot rival the best teams in the world. I hope that will be the case on Saturday evening.”
It is fighting talk from the Clermont forward, whose last taste of Test rugby ended with a Six Nations defeat against Scotland in February.
A bad weekend was made worse when a late night in an Edinburgh bar led to him being banished, along with seven others, from the French squad.
Since Jacques Brunel took over as coach last December, France have played eight Tests, winning just two against Italy and England in the Six Nations.
With three Tests to come against the Springboks, Argentina and Fiji they have the chance to rewrite the end-of-year reviews.
“To start off again with a win would be huge for the squad, the staff, for everyone,” says experienced wing Yoann Huget, who was recalled as cover for the injured Wesley Fofana after a year out of the limelight.
“It would create real enthusiasm. We need to validate the work we have put in over the past year by beating a major nation.”
Huget also sees it as the start point for the 2019 World Cup in Japan next September.
“We have to win in order to kick off our (autumn Test) campaign and to launch our World Cup. We want to arrive (in Japan) with confidence.”
The 31-year-old, whose last Test came in the 17-18 defeat by the Boks at the Stade de France a year ago, has no doubt that the French have the game to challenge the best, especially among the backs.
“The South Africans or the English don’t have a Teddy (Thomas), a Basta (Matthieu Bastareaud) or a Max (Maxime Medard) capable of making the difference in a game.
“We need to take confidence in our strengths. If we do that, then I am sure results will tip in our favour.”
France have lost their last six Tests against South Africa, their last victory coming in Toulouse in 2009.