France urged to take Fiji seriously in rugby union's Autumn Nations Cup

·3-min read

France full-back Anthony Bouthier has urged his teammates not to be complacent against Fiji in their opening match of the inaugural rugby union Autumn Nations Cup.

The eight-team tournament starts on Friday when Ireland entertain Wales at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.

France host Fiji in Vannes, western France, on Sunday afternoon to conclude the first round of games.

Before that tie, Italy play Scotland in Florence and England take on Georgia at Twickenham.

Two more rounds will be played before the pool winners meet to determine the champions while the other sides face a team in the same position in the other group to sort out the minor placings.

“We’re expecting any and everything from the Fijians,” said Bouthier. “Many of them play in France so we know their qualities.

“We’re obviously working on how to counter them as a team and win our own individual duels.”

Bouthier has been one of the revelations of Fabien Galthié’s vibrant France side over the past 10 months. He made his debut in the 24-17 victory over England in February during the 2020 Six Nations tournament.

Reconfiguration

That competition was reconfigured as the coronavirus pandemic swept the world in the spring and only finished in October with England winning the title.

The 2020 Six Nations champions have been placed in Group A with Ireland and Wales while France are in Group B with Scotland and Italy.

“We’re preparing for the Fijians like we would against any side,” added Bouthier, who is set to win his seventh cap.

“We’re taking them seriously but we’re also working on the things that we want to do and what we have to do - just like we’ve been doing since the beginning of the year.

Challenge

“Our aim is to play a good match on Sunday and to win it.”

France will play the game behind closed doors at the Stade de la Rabine in line with government regulations to fight a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

It will be a chance for Bouthier to return to the venue where he spent five years playing for RC Vannes before moving to Montpellier HR in March 2019.

“It will be great to play in the stadium again,” he said. “It’s a shame there won’t be any fans in the ground but it will bring back lots of great memories.

"I’m still in touch with lots of my former teammates to follow their progress. The team is doing brilliantly in the second division at the moment.”

Under a deal struck by the French Rugby Federation and the Top 14 - which runs the country’s first division - France internationals who played in the matches in October against Wales and Ireland can only feature in one Nations Cup tie.

It means Sunday will mark the end of Bouthier’s 2020 international season.

“It’s been wholly positive,” said the 28-year-old. “I only arrived in January but I felt comfortable from the very first training camp in Nice. Playing and winning the first game obviously helps you settle in but it’s a good group with a healthy competitive atmosphere.”