France skipper proud of 'Baby Bleus'
Theo Fages knows France has a tough assignment to reach the quarter-finals of the Rugby League World Cup. Only a win against England will do. But he says he and his mostly young team-mates have already taken plenty from their performance against Australia.
Fages is only 23 years old and represents a bright future for rugby league in France. The five-eighth has already played more than 100 Super League games (for Salford and St Helens) and possesses an impressive running and kicking game. He made his Test debut in the 2013 World Cup as a teenager.
"The World Cup has been a good experience here in Australia," Fages told NRL.com.
"It's the summit for a player to play a World Cup in Australia. We've got one more game (against England) and it's not finished; we need to win the last game."
France's brave effort against the Kangaroos earned high praise for fans back home and also in Australia. Fages was proud of his team's refusal to back down against the world champions.
"All the boys played their hardest," he said.
"We were playing against the best team in the world, so we had to keep our standards up. We [were] still 50 points down but the effort was there, no-one gave up and we played for eighty minutes. I was proud of the boys for that. In some patches we did some good stuff."
Captaincy is a new challenge for Fages. He'd suffered injuries and returned to international duty after a two-year absence. He's hugely proud.
"It's a great honour to represent your country, and to be the captain of the team is even better. But you know it's still the same job for me, playing as well as I can for the team, and leading the team."
This is a young French side; their average age is 23. 'Les Bleus' were hit by injuries going into the tournament and have fielded a team with only a sprinkling of Super League-hardened players.
What will encourage more young French people to take up league instead of rugby union? Fages believes it starts with getting more wins and performing better.
"We're trying to build rugby league in France, but first, it's our results," he said.
"We need to be performing for kids who when they grow up to want to play rugby league and for France."