Medard throws a curveball: Wales are hot favourites

France veteran talks up quarter-final opponents as one of the world's best teams. Maybe he is trying to motivate his team-mates to raise their game and 'be at 200%' in Oita.

OITA, 18 Oct - France will need to raise their game "two or three times over" to beat Wales in Sunday’s quarter-final according to their veteran full-back Maxime Medard.

"If we don't raise our level, the Welsh are going to ride all over us," he said.

Call it gamesmanship or call it honesty, but Medard has no qualms about casting Les Bleus as the underdogs.

"The Welsh have to be favourites. The team has been one of the best in the world for several years.

"You have to keep in mind that the difference between the big teams and the rest is that, in games where you're in trouble, where it turns into an arm-wrestle, the big teams don't give in. Wales are a very big team."

France’s 2018 Six Nations defeat by Wales provides reasons both for hope and caution.

"Even though we led 16-0, they knew how to hurt us, how to win the game, and then the Six Nations. When it comes to mental endurance, and the game of chess that takes place during a match, they often come out on top."

Medard is well aware Les Bleus will need to clean up their game.

"We had some great moments during the pool phase, but there was also a lot of frustration. It would be good to play for 80 minutes rather than 40.

"Above all, we must play together. When we play together, when everyone plays for each other, we're a fearsome team.

"During the pool phase there are things to adjust, structures to review, confidence to build. The knockout stages are separate. Everyone will raise their level. It's like a new competition starting."

Medard’s experience at Rugby World Cup 2011 proved that. France scraped out of the pool phase despite two defeats, one against Tonga (who they defeated at RWC 2019, above). But in the knockouts, they emerged from their chrysalis.

"We wanted to make amends. It was a question of revenge. Every player has to savour the experience of being in the quarter-finals but also find the motivation however they can to be at 200%."

For all his apparent humility, Medard is clear that Les Bleus can never be written off.

"Because we're instinct players. When it comes to consistency, we're clearly not the best. But for a long time, the French XV, French players, have shown they're capable of competing with anyone in one match, of surpassing ourselves.

"We're confident in ourselves, in our structures, and in our game."

Medard, who was not selected for RWC 2015 despite his good form, is also feeling composed.

"After so many years chasing after the France team, after the 2015 tournament that I missed, coming back at a World Cup and being in a quarter-final when people were making – largely bad – predictions about us, is very pleasing."

RNS gl/mp/ar/bo