Many French players are more interested in playing for their clubs in the Top 14 than they are for the national team, according to Ronan O’Gara.
The La Rochelle head coach was on Tuesday’s OTB AM and was speaking about how he was disappointed that only two of his players, Gregory Alldritt and Vincent Rattez, had been called up to the French squad.
While this could be quite beneficial for O’Gara as he will have almost all of his players available during the course of the Six Nations, the former Ireland international aims to have more French call-ups in future.
“We’re in a strange situation where we have only two French [international] players in the whole of the wider French squad.
“So that’s obviously an internal goal to change that because players need to be playing for France. You play rugby to be challenged at the highest possible level,” O’Gara said.
The former Munster fly-half explained that for many players the domestic league was of greater importance than the national team and that attitude must change if France hope to be as successful as they once were.
“There’s been a culture over there where so many of the players are just interested in playing Top 14.
“We need to change that so that they’re playing and excelling for France and playing and excelling in the Champions Cup.
“They should be really excited about going to French camp. The situation up to now was that it was a drag going to [French camp] for some players.
“Not for the La Rochelle players but I remember talking to previous players and they found it difficult.
“I suppose the mindset and the environment for playing for France wasn’t where it should’ve been. As you can see, I think it festered into their performances,” O’Gara commented.
Media criticism and dwindling confidence
With poor French performances being common over the last ten years or so, France have experienced a lot of unfavourable media coverage in recent times.
The La Rochelle head coach believes that this negative attention has only worsened the situation but is confident that things can quickly change.
“I’d say it was definitely the environment in the fact that they were on a downward spiral for many years.
“The press got on their backs and a lot of them going in there felt like, ‘Why am I doing this if I’m going in and I’m put under the pump? In terms of playing performance but also in terms of getting a drilling from the media.
“But I think that can change and it did change for the World Cup. I think they have different confidence levels to a lot of other nations.
“They can lose it quickly but they can also gain it quickly compared to a lot of other nations,” O’Gara said.
France have a tough start to the Six Nations as they play England in Paris this Sunday, but a win over the World Cup finalists would surely boost the morale of Fabien Galthie's side.