Saint-Andre acclaims French steel
Sun, 11 Nov 2012 08:33
We wanted to play in a confrontational way
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre was known as a dazzling, fleet-footed wing in his illustrious playing days, the epitome of so-called "French flair".
But Saint-Andre has been able to instil a steely level of defensive nous in his team, demonstrated as Les Bleus ran out convincing 33-6 victors over Australia at the Stade de France in their first November international.
Saturday's victory was a first over the Wallabies since 2005 and the result fell just one point short of their record win of 34-6 dating back to 1976.
The home side scored three tries to none, man-of-the-match Frederic Michalak also contributing 15 points with a perfect kicking record of six from six, including a snap drop-goal.
The Wallabies had only two first-half Mike Harris penalties to their credit.
"I'm proud of my players," said Saint-Andre. "It was a quality game. We went into it wanting to play in a confrontational way.
"We produced a great defence, moving up quickly and were very aggressive at the ruck. That was the key to the match.
"When you see what other southern hemisphere countries did today, South Africa beating Ireland and Argentina beating Wales, I've told my players to enjoy the win because it's not often you beat Australia, especially by 30 points."
Much of the pre-game hyperbole was given to the absence of captain Thierry Dusautoir and No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy in the back row.
But the duo were not missed as replacements Yannick Nyanga and Louis Picamoles both produced outstanding performances.
Saint-Andre had talked before the match of the dawning of a new era in French rugby with a cyclical rotation of retiring or injured older players in full swing.
And he offered new caps to loosehead prop Yannick Forestier and lock Jocelino Suta, with Sebastien Vahaamahina also coming off the bench in his first outing in the blue shirt.
Scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud was winning just his second cap and fullback Brice Dulin his third.
"We had to inject some fresh blood into the squad because of injuries, but everyone performed well," Saint-Andre said.
"The likes of Francois Trinh-Duc and Morgan Parra offered a lot off the bench and the three new caps all came through in impressive style.
Saint-Andre immediately turned his sights on the rest of his team's November campaign, which includes matches against Argentina and Samoa on the coming two weekends.
"I wanted to string together three Tests [against Australia, Argentina and Samoa], some people thought I was being too optimistic, but we've started well," he said.
"Against Argentina, we'll have to have the same intensity, and we'll also have to have that same fear that we had today."
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