France

French target 'bete noire' Aussies

Thu, 13 Sep 2012 09:46
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These are three important Tests
Quote-end

French coach Philippe Saint-Andre is determined to come out of November's three Tests with three wins and, as a result, a spot as one of the four seeds for the 2015 World Cup.

The 45-year-old - who replaced Marc Lievremont after France's 7-8 loss to the All Blacks in last year's World Cup final - will not have an easy task in achieving that as the French host Australia, who they have not beaten since 2004, then bogey team Argentina a week later on November 17.

Their final fixture comes against Samoa a week after that.

Saint-Andre, who guided France to third in his first Six Nations campaign and then to a one-all tied series with the Pumas in the close season, admitted these November Tests had an added importance as they try and sneak into the top four in the world and thereby guarantee themselves a top seeding in one of the four pools.

"These are three important Tests: Australia who are a bit of a bete noire for France, Argentina will be as well prepared as ever before because they will have been together for four months and the Samoans," said Saint-Andre.

"We have the time, with the Four Nations, to prepare well for the Australians and the Argentinians.

"We are fifth in the IRB rankings, just behind the English.

"The World Cup draw is December 3 and the target is to be a seed."

Saint-Andre, a former France captain and classy wing who was capped 69 times from 1990-97, said France would have to avoid playing into Australia's hands if they were to end their winless streak against them - their last meeting under Lievremont ending with a 59-16 walloping at the Stade de France in 2010.

"It is a team that every time they play France tries to play at a ruthless rhythm and to keep the ball," he said.

"Their objective is to wear you out physically. If you are not well-placed defensively, and you don't impose yourselves combatively and slow down their delivery of the ball, they are capable of scoring 40 points in a quarter of an hour," added Saint-Andre.

Saint-Andre, who cut his coaching teeth in England with Gloucester before further spells with Bourgoin, Sale and Toulon, said that Argentina were a formidable opponent and, in his eyes, had overtaken France as a rugby force.

"Argentina are better than just a good side!" exclaimed Saint-Andre.

"They drew with South Africa at home in their first Four Nations clash when they deserved to win.

"In New Zealand [last weekend], until the yellow card, they were holding their own.

"Argentina will progress, they have prepared for the Four Nations as if it were the World Cup.

"That is our problem: our players do not have time for such a phase of development.

"After a month of holidays, they [Argentina] went straight into a series of friendly matches etc...The Argentinians have adapted to international rugby in the professional era and in its organisation, they have overtaken France in that domain."

Saint-Andre, who since the Test series with the Pumas has travelled the country along with assistant coaches Yannick Bru and Patrice Lagisquet to confer with club coaches, said the squad for the November Tests would be a mix of youth and experience.

"We are going to try and mix some of the young players from the tour of Argentina and those senior players who were rested," he said.

"Obviously they will be the players who are in form in the Top 14.

"There are 12 Top 14 games before November. The players who will have played these 12 games plus one or two friendly games pre-season won't have much to be taught!

"And then there is the other unknown factor of whether the players have retained what we did during the Six Nations and in Argentina, or will we have to start from zero again?"

AFP

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