WUGC 2016 Preview: France Men

The French are looking to translate their recent success against European competition into a more stable position among the continent's elite.

Quentin Roger of France at WUCC 2014. Photo: William 'Brody' Brotman -- UltiPhotos.com
Quentin Roger of France at WUCC 2014. Photo: William ‘Brody’ Brotman — UltiPhotos.com

There is a storm building in Europe — spinning in the streets of Salzburg, ploughing across French fields, and lurking in Swedish parks — and it’s heading straight for London. With WUGC nearly upon us, it is time to learn a bit more about some of the men’s teams who will be competing in England next week, squaring off against the best the world has to offer.

Depth And Professionalism

French ultimate has experienced steady empirical growth for the last few years, a somewhat foreign concept to a people currently enjoying their fifth republic. Historically speaking, French ultimate performances have been inconsistent on the world stage, rising and falling on the backs of their standout players — a hallmark for the mid-table international sides. In 2016, the French Men are looking to break themselves free from the pack and realize their ambitions of becoming a legitimate world player. They have the people, the position, and the power; all that remains is for them to bring it all together.

France has one of the largest populations of ultimate players among the European states. With over 70 registered clubs and 3,000 members, they form quite the land army. Possibly the greenest laurel of France ultimate’s success is their recognition from the French sports ministry, a much vaunted achievement that several European countries are still chasing. Ultimate is even starting to take shaky steps towards widespread acknowledgement in the country, thanks to the increasing accessibility of both local communities and the AUDL being broadcast weekly nationwide on a digital station. All of these factors compound to grant French ultimate the raw resources they need to manufacture the next big step forward for their community. This manifests itself globally as being a competitive force and more locally as being able to beat either Germany or Great Britain, though preferably both.

The realities of producing these advancements are daunting, but ones the leadership of France Open have taken on emphatically. Frédéric Risse and Ludovic Taveau, defensive and offensive coaches respectively, have been hard at work carving a viable mold of French ultimate out of the great lump of clay given to them. The process for team selection started three years ago with over 120 players in contention, making it one of the largest tryouts in Europe. That group was subsequently whittled down to 40-50 players to make up the general outline of the team. The final roster was not determined until relatively recently so the selectors had the ability to bring along particularly promising talent that emerged during the construction of the squad. This process guarantees that the French Men’s team that shows up to London will be the finest the French community is currently capable of exhibiting.

While the final roster is limited by the WUGC rules, the real strength of the French program is shown in the depth of their full training squad. Unlike some of the smaller European national programs, France has maintained their larger squad of potential participants to help raise the overall standard of ultimate across the country as well as provide immediate, informed reinforcements in the event of injury. There has been an enormous effort on the part of French ultimate to produce the best they can from their player base, as captain De Risse highlights: “The French teams have to become the flagship of our sport and an example for all players in France.”

There has also been an increase in the professionalism of what is expected from the members of the national side and training squad. Trainings have become more rigorous and regimented. Drills are conducted to hardwire habits into the players that will stand up even in those moments of exhaustion where all thought abandons the body mid-point. There is also a new nutritional plan, refurbished from previous years, both in content and execution. All of these developments are aimed at banishing the old French reputation for patchwork talent and establish a uniform foundation of devout competence — the kind one finds Great Britain and Germany building their legacies on top of.

The initial results are there to be seen. France came home from the European Championships last year with a bronze medal for their efforts, leaving only the aforementioned pair above them. They also came in second Windmill two weeks ago and they won the recent Confederations Cup in Frankfurt. The French have spent the past year putting on impressive displays against the exact calibre of opposition they are looking to separate themselves from.

Players To Watch For

Maxime Garros

Garros has plied his trade all over the world, but he has come home to roost with this French team. The team leader is cock of France’s brand new swagger. Calm, confident, and controlling, it is difficult to shake this French team with him on the sideline; it’s nigh on impossible once he’s on the pitch.

Quentin Roger

One of the youngest players on the French Open squad, it does not take long to find out why Roger made it onto this team. The young athlete moves incredibly quickly, playing with suave and urgency.

Steve Bonneau

For those of you lucky enough to have attended Windmill Windup two weekends ago, this man needs no introduction. For those of us not so fortunate, there are videos we can look up. Seemingly operating via some kind of Bat-Signal, Bonneau consistently shows up exactly where he is needed. He has made a habit of bailing out handlers when high-pressure defense leads to crowding, making crucial cuts during downfield stagnation and remaining ingratiatingly calm with disc in hands. He is the subtle wine bringing out France’s best flavors.

What To Expect

The preparation for France has been meticulous since they entered the final year before WUGC 2016. Five selection and preparation weekends coupled with two international tournaments and personal prescriptions for player development have been utilised to produce the calibre of squad French Ultimate believes its size demands.

They are aiming themselves at the established powers like Japan, Australia, and Great Britain, and in their most confident moments daring to see targets on the backs of even the North American outfits. They also appreciate that they are not the only European force looking to smash their way into the top eight. Teams like Austria, Italy, and Belgium have been usurped by France only recently — and, according to some sources, only temporarily. The success of this annexation has been shown in France’s gold and silver medals in their last two European tournaments respectively.

But metal breeds mettle, and confidence is high in the French camps as they make the final preparations for their assault across the Channel. Bear in mind the last time the French marched on English soil they changed the world forever. They’re looking to do it again.

  1. Lorcan Murray
    Lorcan Murray

    Lorcán Murray is an Ultiworld contributor and freelance journalist. He lives in Limerick, Ireland. He plays ultimate for PELT and with his mustache regularly. You can reach him by email: rev.lmurray@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RevLorcan.

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