Stade Toulousain-Harlequins: “There is a little frustration…” Thibaud Flament will experience a great first, in the Champions Cup this Sunday

Stade Toulousain-Harlequins: “There is a little frustration…” Thibaud Flament will experience a great first, in the Champions Cup this Sunday
Stade Toulousain-Harlequins: “There is a little frustration…” Thibaud Flament will experience a great first, in the Champions Cup this Sunday

the essential
The second row and his teammates from Toulouse challenge the Londoners, Sunday May 5 at the Stadium (4 p.m.), in the semi-final of the Champions Cup.

Thibaud Flament is not without a paradox. Having passed under all the radars following an atypical journey that took him from Belgium to England via Argentina, the man who touched his first balls as fly-half has for two seasons become an indisputable starter at within the second line of the XV of France.

And yet, as surprising as it may seem when he arrived in the Pink City during the 2020/2021 season, he never started in N.4, the position where he feels “most at home”. aise”, a final phase match with Stade Toulousain. The 18 he played (out of 19 possible, Top 14 and Champions Cup combined), he started either in the third row (4) or on the bench (14).

Asked in mid-April about the reasons pushing the staff to proceed in this way with Flament, and in particular on the fact that his versatility potentially makes him an ideal replacement, Jean Bouilhou, the forwards coach, was clear: “It is not not linked to his versatility. In our team construction, we have players who start matches and others who finish them, we know that he is someone who has a lot of energy in the second games. He has this ability to come in and bring a lot of energy to the team. This is part of the thinking we have with him. Afterwards, the competitive game means that we have a group with a lot of strength. top players.”

“Prove that I can start”

It’s indeed difficult to do without Emmanuel Meafou, the pack’s tractor, and Richie Arnold, the alignment control tower. Especially since at 33, the Australian seems to be experiencing a second youth, with 29 matches played last year which allowed him to make his first selections with the Wallabies and to participate in a World Cup. Subject to some physical problems and absences linked to his selections under the Blues jersey, stung last year on his return from the Tournament by Ugo Mola who wanted to see him play more at club level, Flament is working on his side while biding his time.

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“There is a little frustration,” he admitted about his status three weeks ago before facing Toulon, he who in 64 matches in Toulouse has a rate of 59.4% of starts (68.4 % for Emmanuel Meafou in 98 matches; 80.7% for Richie Arnold in 109 matches).

However, with the collective interest in mind: “There is also the desire to bring as much as possible to the team once the role is established during the week, to contribute more, to make the guys work as well as possible possible and, at the start of the school year, to bring as much freshness as possible and then to prove that I can start the matches.”

Completing them, although there is less playing time at stake, is anything but demeaning. “You know, when you are a substitute, you have the gratitude to finish the matches and make them win too. And our last 20 minutes are often very efficient. I think that the players also benefit from it despite everything,” argued Bouilhou .

“Play every match until the end”

Absent for nearly three months this winter due to a crack in a big toe, Flament hung up the wagon at the perfect time. Recalled by Fabien Galthié to finish the Tournament after a recovery gallop of a little less than a half against Castres – “for confidence, it feels good”, he admits –, he has since continued without interruption. “I am very happy to be able to play, to play a series of matches and my goal is to play them all until the end of the season.”

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Fresh as a roach after his long convalescence – “at first, it was frustrating and afterwards, I realized that it was good to have time, to have weekends, to be able to recharge my batteries; I felt that it did me a lot of good” – he will continue his 10th consecutive match sheet tomorrow against Harlequins.

And a 7th start, synonymous with a great first with the No. 4 behind his back in the final stages since Arnold, in muscular delicacy lately, will start on the bench. It’s up to him to take advantage of it.

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