EDINBURGH (AFP) – Romain Ntamack has been handed the France number 10 shirt by head coach Fabien Galthie and an ultimatum from his own father: “Be better than me.”
Ntamack’s father, Emile, made 46 appearances for France between 1994-2000, winning a Six Nations Grand Slam as a player and a coach.
His 20-year-old son, meanwhile, has performed superbly, leading France to the top of this season’s Six Nations table with three wins from as many games.
They aim to make it four from four when they take on Scotland at Murrayfield today.
“My dad pushes me to do better than him. He has just one desire, that I am better than him in everything,” Romain told AFP this week.
“Before every match, even the smaller ones, he always sends me a message or calls me a few minutes to wish me luck, to try and reassure me. I’m always waiting for his message, it’s a routine that’s been in place for a few years,” the moustached youngster added.
Alongside the Under-20 World Cup champion at half-back is Toulouse team-mate 23-year-old scrum-half Antoine Dupont and the pair have made the most of starting all three games so far this campaign.
“If we shared a room we’d end up hitting each other,” Ntamack jokily said.
“We have a really good relationship, we get along really well, we’re really good mates. It’s important to have a good relationship off the field to get along on it.”
Despite their relationship at Test level they have only started at half-back together twice together for the record 20-time French champions.
“It’s important to have a dynamic and to know how one another works. We’re team-mates at club level which allows us to build a dynamic much quicker with France,” Ntamack said.
“I hope, with the club, I’ll have more chance to play at 10 with Antoine at nine to improve the dynamic.”
Galthie, a former Test captain and scrum-half, said Ntamack’s displays so far this campaign have underlined the whole squad’s efforts.
“Romain is performing well and we’re happy for him. But behind his performances is the work of the team as a whole,” Galthie said on Friday.
“It’s true to say that Romain’s performances represent the team on the whole because rugby is a team game.” Ntamack’s task on Sunday has been made easier with Finn Russell’s continued exile from Scotland duty after the Racing 92 fly-half’s breakdown in his relationship with head coach Gregor Townsend.
“Just because there’s no Russell, we can’t tell ourselves ‘Okay, the game’s won’. Russell’s an extraordinary player, he shows that every weekend with Racing and every time he plays for Scotland.
“Russell or no Russell, it changes nothing in our plans. We have to be careful of all their players, be that their forwards or backs, because they have enormous talent.”