Despite stiff competition, the young winger Matthis Lebel is making a place in the three-quarter line of the Stade Toulousain which receives Bordeaux-Bègles on Sunday (6 p.m.). A first objective before dreaming bigger, the 2023 World Cup in sight.
“Lebel will be international in a short time and will be international for a long time, don’t worry.” Nothing like a prophecy from Ugo Mola, pronounced at the end of October, to put pressure on a 21-year-old player, professional since 2018 only. But that does not seem to weigh on the shoulders of the Gersois. “I am wary of what people say, the reality is that there are very good players at my post in France”, he then commented, “with his feet on the ground”, in an interview with AFP . “If it happens so much the better, otherwise it’s not an end in itself. For the moment, I tell myself that we should not go too fast, not get confused. “
The rest of the fall proved him right. Starting off on the hats at the start of the season – four tries in as many tenures in the Top 14 – Lebel has not experienced the same success during the long period of doubloons, made very complicated by the absence of ten players called by the XV of France. The double junior world champion with the Bleuets (2018 and 2019) was part of it, in the middle of an army of beginners at the international level, without having his chance to play against Italy and then England.
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“It’s a little frustrating for the competitor that I am,” he admitted on his return to Toulouse. Now I know that I have learned a lot in terms of experience. I was able to touch closely the room for improvement that I have left to hope one day to integrate for good this team of France and play there. (…) To show myself, I will first have to earn my place in the club. ”
This step seems almost taken if we base ourselves on the team composition for the perilous trip to Ulster (29-22) in mid-December, with a full team: Lebel won a starting place there at the expense the taulier (33 years old) Yoann Huget, who will hang up his crampons at the end of the season, driven in part by the emergence of the new generation. In addition to Huget, 62 selections with the Blues, and Lucas Tauzin, another U20 world champion (22 years old) who is currently in the infirmary, Lebel must also face competition from Maxime Médard (33 years old, 63 selections), and of the South African world champion Cheslin Kolbe. Even Thomas Ramos if we consider that he also postulates, eventually, at the rear.
A future as a rear?
With the bosses Huget and Médard, the relationship, “rather distant” at the start, “evolved”, Lebel being integrated “little by little”, explains the nugget from Samatan (Gers), 50 km from Toulouse. As for the artists Ramos and Kolbe, “I watch them and I learn a lot”, he says, admiring their placement. Availability is one of its areas for improvement. “I really improved on the fact of moving more on the field and of putting together the efforts. I was late and I managed to catch up with him, ”he says. “His room for improvement is obviously in consistency”, judge Mola, who also wants to endow the Gersois with a physical “shell” “because the sequence of matches leaves traces”.
And to slide to the rear, his favorite position among young people, the site is even larger as the last rampart is so crucial in the Toulouse system. “Ugo had put me there a little but I could not be myself 100%, I was not ready to be 15 as he wanted”, relates Lebel who must improve on the foot but above all “On the pre-action, take all the information, be in the right place at the right time, everything that happens when I’m far from the ball”.
“His repositioning on the wing takes away a lot of things to manage”, recognizes Mola who does not despair of bringing him “little by little” to the rear. This is good for someone who has just extended his contract until 2023, the year of the World Cup, plus an optional year: coach Fabien Galthié is crazy about versatile profiles …