While everybody in the alphabet from Brian Ashton to Jonny Wilkinson talks up the promise of Danny Cipriani, the stand-off in waiting, the French do things rather differently. The Red Rose approach is to reach tentatively for the secateurs; for 'Les Bleus' it's the guillotine.
Only five players from the starting line-up in the World Cup semi-final defeat by England make it to Murrayfield today when France open their defence of the Six Nations against Scotland. Frédéric Michalak, the creator of the brilliant try that knocked out the All Blacks? Gone. Lionel Beauxis, his rival for the No 10 jersey? Axed.
The fact that France failed to win the World Cup, in Paris, has clearly not impressed Bernard Laporte's successor, Marc Lièvremont, for he has torn up the script. There are new props in Julien Brugnaut and Lionel Faure (in a department that is a French speciality), Julien Malzieu on the wing and at stand-off one François Trinh-Duc. No, the Scots don't have a clue either.
"Trinh-Duc was a surprise," Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, said as if he misordered an Asian takeaway. "We didn't see that one coming." Lièvremont did. When he was in charge of France's Under-21s, he coached Trinh-Duc. Lièvremont said: "You could say he lacks experience for this position but he must start one day. We have spoken a lot about confidence and taking responsibility and that's the case with him. You can't expect a 21-year-old fly-half to be perfect. He will make mistakes and we accept that."
Emile N'Tamack, Lièvremont's assistant, said: "François is a good defender and his kicking game has improved. He has a real influence on the game." Trinh-Duc, whose paternal grandfather was from Vietnam, made a big impression a year ago when, in his second start for Montpellier, he scored 17 points against Bayonne. He quickly became first choice. Earlier, in a European Challenge Cup match, he was sent off against Connacht for a dangerous tackle.
"I try to play by instinct, by feeling," Trinh-Duc said. "This can be a quality and a fault because sometimes I get a bit carried away. There is still plenty to improve on. I must improve the consistency of my kicking game, my vision of play and my decision-making. I am more in competition with myself than with the other fly-halves."
Trinh-Duc, who is studying for a sports diploma, began playing at the age of four, so perhaps he is not that wet behind the ears. "You would have thought these kids would be a bit timid, but they have already done quite a lot," Lièvremont said. "They are full of confidence. They are not just here to have walk-on parts. The main thing that concerns us is the homogeneity of the team and the blending between the old and the new."
Lièvremont has not only brought a new word to the Six Nations but a new captain, Lionel Nallet, who was on the bench for the World Cup games against New Zealand and England. "Some tough choices had to be made then," the 31-year-old Castres lock said. "They paid off against New Zealand but not so well against England. Would it have been any different if I'd been on the field?" His shrug suggested not.
Like Lièvremont, Nallet seems to lean towards a Proustian perception of the game. "There is no particular pressure being captain. Everyone is attentive to me but I am not somebody that speaks much. I never was and never will be. It is not something that is demanded of me. I'm there to point out the essentials, the basics of rugby, so everyone keeps that to the front of their minds. I prefer to be irreproachable on and off the pitch. Above all, I play for France."
And what about Trinh-Duc and Co? "I know them, I play against them and they don't come from nowhere. I have confidence in them. They have done well for their clubs and I don't see why they wouldn't be good for France."
He added: "We want to play a much faster game with more movement and more use of our reflexes. We are working on support and the ability to accelerate play. I like this type of play but it does require great fitness. Scotland know we are a new team and they will take the fight to us. It will be a difficult game but we must respond."Reuse content