January 20, 2005 - French coach Philippe Blain has signalled out the 2005 World League competition as his side's most important event this year, with his team looking for ideal preparation ahead of a World Championship Third Round assignment in July.
Blain, who led the Blues to a surprise bronze medal finish at the last World Championships in Argentina in 2002, believes he has the makings of a very strong team in 2005 and says this year's World League competition, which takes place from May 27 to July 10, will be the ideal platform for his team to start to hit their straps.
"The World League is the best chance for the younger players to gain valuable experience and it will also give us an ideal preparation opportunity ahead of the third round of the World Championship, which we have a few weeks later," Blain said. "Our pool in the World League is very difficult even if, like the Blues, the other teams participating have been forced to make changes and modify their squads."
France has seen two core players from previous seasons, Laurent Carpet and Loïc De Kergret, retire but the nucleus of their 2002 World Championship side remains with Hubert Henno, Dominique Daquin, Stéphane Antiga, Frantz Granvorka, Vincent Montmeat, Philippe Barca-Cysique, Mathias Patin,Oliver Kieffer and Sebastien Frangolacci all included.
France finished fifth in last year's World League, which matched their best finish (three times) in their nine years of competing. However their Olympic campaign in Athens last year ended in a disappointing fashion when they missed out on the quarterfinals behind Serbia and Montenegro, Greece, Argentina and Poland to finish ninth.
France will play Cuba, Bulgaria and last year's runner's up Italy in Pool B.