6 Nations 2024 – Paul Gabrillagues, sacrificed in the name of specialization against Italy

While he started in the first two matches of the 2024 6 Nations Tournament, Paul Gabrillagues should not be on the scoresheet against Italy. Fabien Galthié and his staff preferred two specialists for specific tasks with Cameron Woki and Posolo Tuilagi.

More than a victory, the XV of France is looking for confidence when facing Italy, during the third day of the 2024 6 Nations Tournament. After a shocking defeat at the Stade de France against Ireland and a widely criticized performance at Murrayfield, the Blues have need to reassure themselves about what once made them strong. Besides the injuries, a tactical change should then be made by Fabien Galthié for Sunday’s match against the Azzuri and it was Paul Gabrillagues who suffered. Called up to everyone’s surprise more than four years after his last match in the Rooster jersey, the second row of Stade Français started the first two matches of the 2023 Tournament.

After two selections as a substitute, the young second line of Perpignan Posolo Tuilagi will start the match against Italy on Sunday in Lille, and will make his first start.https://t.co/1VaPr1gfq2

— RUGBYRAMA (@RugbyramaFR) February 21, 2024

First starting at number 4 alongside Paul Willemse, Gabrillagues was then used in the more unusual position of number 5 against Scotland. A position that is similar to the cage level, one could say, except that the second batten has a particular importance in scrum, where it must support more weight compared to its counterpart. This is perhaps why, from now on, the young Posolo Tuilagi, who weighs more than thirty kilos more, is now preferred by Fabien Galthié. The Perpignan driver had also signed two convincing entries, while Gabrillagues stood out more for his sobriety.

Taofifenua, the specialist… in finishers!

The weakness displayed at certain moments by the Blues on carried balls may also have tipped the scales for Tuilagi, who, with his enormous power, immediately becomes a significant weapon in this area. In addition to the balloons carried, the touch was also at the center of criticism, especially against Ireland. Without Cameron Woki, the Blues lost four touches, without stealing one from the Clover XV. Result: the alignment of the XV of France only has the fourth success rate among the 6 nations.

It therefore seems necessary to have in the group players like Cameron Woki, specialist in stealing balls in touch or, on the bench Esteban Abadie and Alexandre Roumat. If the Toulonnais should play in the third line, the Toulousain has the superpower of versatility and was also in the second line against Scotland, during his first tenure. A situation that amused him:I was more surprised by the fact of evolving in this position, rather than being on the sheet!” Taking this into account, there is not much room left for a second line. Gabrillagues was then perhaps fighting with Romain Taofifenua for the last seat on the bench but it is difficult to dislodge a big regular from the group of “finishers”.

Moreover, out of the 35 matches he played under the leadership of Fabien Galthié, “Grand Tao” started 27 on the bench. This should therefore be the case once again this Sunday against Italy. As for Paul Garbillagues, he is paying the price for the Blues’ setbacks in specific sectors at the start of the Tournament.

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