France Under 20 team manager and rugby legend Fabien Pelous is expecting a showcase of the best young talent at IRB Junior World Championship 2013 and believes the tournament is a great springboard into the Test arena.
The 39-year-old, who notched a record 118 caps for France and three European Cups with Stade Toulousain, retired back in 2009 but will be attending his second Junior World Championship as team manager.
The tournament is now in its sixth edition and has so far propelled more than 200 graduates into the Test arena, including 13 French players in total. Mathieu Bastareaud, Brice Dulin and Yoann Maestri are just a few of those who have played for Les Bleus and Pelous recognises the tournament’s potential to unearth future stars of the Game.
“There is one thing that is common to all sports at a high level: to make progress, the best must play against the best, and the best must train against the best,” Pelous told Total Rugby.
“All players who end up in the national teams have taken part in this competition, because today, it is rare for 20-year-old players not to have been detected, so this is a competition where you will see all the great players of tomorrow.
“Probably 80 per cent of the players in the world did take part in this Junior World Cup. This competition is very formative to be able to play in a national team.”
Fickou a big loss
France will face England, defending champions South Africa and the USA in the pool stages of JWC 2013, which takes place in Nantes, Vannes and La Roche-sur-Yon in the north west of France from 5-23 June.
France’s record over the past five tournaments have been mixed, with the side finishing sixth last year and a best of fourth in the 2011 edition in Italy when they lost in the semi-final to England.
Late squad changes will not have helped the side’s preparation, with Jonathan Laugel involved in France’s preparations for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow, Toulouse star Gaël Fickou to tour New Zealand with the senior side, as well as injuries to Yohan Domenech and Ivan Roux.
While the loss of talented centre Fickou – who played at JWC 2012 and made his Test debut against Scotland in the Six Nations – will cause a change up in France’s midfield, Pelous is confident a number of his players will go on to play at Test level and is optimistic of France’s chances this year.
“Some of our players have emerged in the Top 14 teams, such as (Christopher) Tolofua who will take part in the World Cup. Unfortunately, Gaël Fickou has already gone up one level with the French national team, but there is Teddy Thomas, who has started playing in Biarritz. These three players are the best examples of success and show that 80 per cent of them will become professionals.
“Gaël is a big loss for us but we can still be happy that such a young player has directly become part of the French national team. A young player who spent three years in Pôle Espoir, one year in Pôle France, who was part of this training competition, and who ends up in the French team, even before he is 19!
“Hope is huge though (for this year). Although the tournament did not go well last year we trained accordingly, with courses we added to our preparation as we needed to work a bit more, to perform well. I have very high hopes for this World Cup.”
VIDEO: Total Rugby meet Fabien Pelous and visits Pôle Espoir