The Tricolours face three home nations and the England Knights and, speaking in Perpignan where he is planning their campaign with the technical staff, his message was to the point.
“The target is simple,” he said. “We need to win four games, but our main aim is still preparation for the 2013 World Cup.”
The matches, against England in their Four Nations warm up in Avignon; Ireland and Scotland in a Test Tri-Series and the up and coming Knights, will provide Goulding’s men with an excellent opportunity to get back on track following the disappointment of last year’s European Cup defeat to Wales, which saw Iestyn Harris’s men qualify to have a crack at England, Australia and New Zealand.
Organising suitable training dates in conjunction with the Catalan Dragons’ schedule prompted the Perpignan meeting, with a large number of the national squad’s players drawn from the Super League outfit but a five-day training camp in Narbonne in late August, around the time of the Challenge Cup final, is now likely.
Two young players Goulding has his eye on for the World Cup are set to join the senior squad. Damien Cardace, a centre, and front rower Thibault Margalet first came to Goulding’s attention during the European Under 16s Championships in 2009 and performed well against England Academy in this June’s Test match.
The former Great Britain halfback is desperate to increase France’s selection depth. “I’m certain that if we’d had David Ferriol, Vincent Duport, Cyrille Gossard, Maxime Grésèque and Thomas Bosc available we would have beaten Wales rather than go down by a point. Our pool is still too small, we need a second Super League club.”
Looking ahead to 2013, Goulding is a passionate advocate of France hosting World Cup matches. “I would have chosen France as co-hosts for the World Cup. Perpignan and Avignon are fantastic rugby league cities. The success of the European Cup with the public here proves that the French Federation is capable of organising big events. I hope that we’ll be able to get New Zealand and Samoa over here, two opponents that will bring a lot of people to the stands.”
Catalan coach Trent Robinson has attracted a lot of praise from Goulding, with the Dragons’ supremo responsible for, “rekindling the flame for international football among the club’s local players.” Goulding has also singled out Catalan’s Sébastien Raguin, Jason Baitieri and Eloi Pélissier, alongside two young Lézignanais, Mickaël Tribillac and Julian Bousquet from the Elite Championship, as players to watch.