With Thibaud Flament’s package, the experienced second-line Lyon, usual “finisher”, will start Sunday against Japan.
As soon as he arrived at the head of the XV of France, Fabien Galthié wanted to change terminology, like what the Anglo-Saxons do: we no longer speak of replacements but of “finishers“. And in this role, Romain Taofifenua shines in the blue jersey. He brings all his physical density (2 m for 135 kg) and his aggressiveness in the fight at the end of the match, when it is necessary to make the difference.
It worked well in the last two test matches against the Wallabies and to the Springboks, where the Blues made the difference in the last 10 minutes. “It’s not frustrating not to start. I got into the habit of finishing matches, confides the second line of Lyon. It’s a role that I like. Bring energy in the second half when the team is not necessarily doing well…»
“I like this role of finisher but I also want to prove that I can start matches…”
Sunday, against Japan, he will nevertheless start in the shoes of a holder against the Japanese, in the absence of Toulouse Thibaud Flament, victim of a concussion against the South Africans. “I like this role of finisher but I also want to prove that I can start matches“, he acknowledges. “Since the beginning of Fabien’s mandate (Galthié in 2020), I started a lot of matches on the bench. They were happy with my entrees. Suddenly, I begin to have the experience of finishing the matches. I also think I can supervise the youngest, those who are not used to starting on the bench.»
His preparation for the match at the Stadium will therefore necessarily be different, he who has become accustomed to entering during the game.We do not approach matches in the same way when we are a substitute. I have more time to prepare for my entrancehe says. Even if last weekend, I came home earlier after Thibaud’s injury (Flament, concussion in the 31st minute, Editor’s note). But I don’t worry too much, I don’t put too much pressure on myself, whether it’s during the warm-up or the Marseillaise. I know I have time to get into the game.“There, it will be necessary to be ready from the start. No ignition delay.
After the two shocks against Australia and South Africa, Japan seems to be a more affordable opponent. But Romain Toafifenua, who faced them twice during the last summer tour of the Blues, is on his guard: “I don’t think there will be any relaxation on our part. We want to finish this tour well and still remain undefeated, to switch well on the Tournament which will arrive. We want to win again and again.“And to insist:”We saw that Japan had hurt us this summer so we know what to expect and we worked hard.»
“The Japanese are strong up front. There will be big impacts, they are very explosive players. »
After the brutal tussle against the South African world champions, the Japanese should offer more game, movement and intensity in the races. “We knew it was going to hit hard against the Boks and it didn’t lie last Saturday. It was very intense“, highlighted “tao», 32 years old, described as part of the team by Galthié. But he still expects to have to fight against the Japanese in his favorite sector: combat.
“We saw it last summer, they have a very good scrum. They have strong players. We talk about it less than the South Africans but they are strong in front. We know that we are going to have a big challenge ahead against the Japanesehe warns. We prepared for this match like the others. There will be big impacts, they are very explosive players.»
If successful on Sunday at the Stadium, the band in Galthié would sign a thirteenth success in a row and end the year 2022 undefeated (10 successes this year). And to aim for the absolute record of 18 straight wins set by the All Blacks and the English? “This record is very far. We don’t think about it, we don’t talk about it too muchsays Romain Taofifenua. But it’s huge. The most important thing is not to lose, but you don’t set a record.“Everything in its time, he is well placed to know.