French determined to deprive Wales
Mon, 12 Mar 2012 00:00
French coach Philippe Saint-Andre surveyed the ruins of his side's Six Nations title hopes after the 22-24 defeat by England and glumly admitted the only target remaining was to prevent Wales from landing the Grand Slam next weekend.
The 44-year-old, who will have to do without the predatory try-scoring talents of Vincent Clerc who injured a shoulder, said in order to do so they would need to acquire the Welsh habit of being able to win matches in the dying minutes.
"With the Grand Slam gone [after drawing 17-17 at home to Ireland last Sunday] and now no chance of the title our only challenge is to deprive Wales of the Grand Slam," said Saint-Andre.
Saint-Andre, who replaced Marc Lievremont after the World Cup final defeat by the All Blacks, had to watch his side try to overhaul a sizeable deficit for the third successive game.
But having eventually beaten the Scots, and drawn with the Irish, they came up short on Sunday.
Just as against the Irish they had a chance to win the game in the dying seconds.
But just as Lionel Beauxis's woeful effort had missed, so did Francois Trinh-Duc's lamentably short drop-goal.
"Trinh-Duc's was an easier attempt than Beauxis's against Ireland but it seems we can't win in the dying minutes of a match. I hope we can soon," added the coach.
"The Welsh in contrast have a good habit of winning in the dying stages. Against the Irish it was in the last minute and against the English the 77th."
Saint-Andre, who will announce his squad for the Wales game on Monday, said that his side needed to be more clinical when the opportunities arose and be able to switch to defence quickly when a counter attack followed.
"We lack a clinical edge to our play and failure to take our chances costs us dearly," said Saint-Andre, who admitted in a rare moment of humour that perhaps his dumbest error as coach of English side Sale was to convince one of England's try-scorers Ben Foden to choose fullback over scrumhalf.
"They were penalised 11 times, us four times, and they were also reduced to 14 men [Charlie Sharples was sin-binned], but we couldn't score enough points.
"They on the other hand made the most of their turnovers and we were incapable of transforming quick enough from an offensive force into a defensive one and effectively two of their three tries stemmed from counter-attacks."
For man of the match, No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy, the defeat meant perhaps having to adopt in the future the tactics deployed by England, a nation he has said in the past he dislikes intensely.
"It is imperative we learn to play a little like them maybe, to show a more pragmatic approach, to slow the game down and to learn to score points regularly."
Whether Julien Dupuy gets to adjust his strategy in the Wales game is open to question as he and Beauxis had dreadful games at halfback as both started their first international matches since 2009.
Dupuy admitted that he had just not performed.
"One has to be honest, I am at the bottom of the barrel," said the 28-year-old.
"It has been three years since I hadn't started for France. Now I get the chance and it goes really badly. It is tough.
"I don't think I placed too much pressure on myself. There are games like that where things don't go well, it happens. However, now was not the moment for it to happen."
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