France plan 'smash-and-grab raid'

Sun, 10 Feb 2013 13:19
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France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said their goal now was to win respect following their 16-6 defeat to Wales.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre conceded his side had no hope of winning the Six Nations, but said their goal now was to win respect following their 16-6 defeat to Wales.

The 45-year-old, whose side became the first French team since 1982 to lose their first two Five/Six Nations games, was dignified and frank after an abject display against opponents who had lost their last eight matches.

With two tough trips to England and then Ireland to come, France could be playing for the wooden spoon when they host Scotland on March 16.

Saint-Andre, who had taken France into the championship on a four-game winning streak before losing to Italy last weekend, called on his players to display the type of resilience the Welsh had shown.

"We can't win the title, but we can win respect," said Saint-Andre, who at the outset of the tournament had demanded his side finish better than last year's fourth spot.

"We have to accept the Welsh came here on an eight-game losing run and won and we give them credit for that. We had two clear chances to score and we didn't take them.

"We are going through a difficult time at the moment. But we have to work harder and lift ourselves. We will have to perform a smash-and-grab raid at Twickenham in a fortnight."

Saint-Andre, who knows England well, having started his coaching career there with Gloucester and returning for a spell at Sale, said some things had been better than against Italy such as the defence but the team as a whole had not performed.

The former France captain refused to enter into a debate over whether the reason his players looked jaded by comparison to the Welsh was their overloaded club programme, which he has often criticised.

"I won't go into that here. There should be no excuses on that part. We are in a magical competition, it's what you dream about being involved in as a player and is why I wanted to play rugby.

"The simple fact is the Welsh were more reactive, more aggressive and they outnumbered us two to one when it came to tackling our player with the ball.

"They stopped us from liberating the ball, something we were very good at doing back in November [when they won all three Tests, including against Australia and Argentina].

"The calendar is due to be discussed in June by the league, the federation and the players and I hope everybody shoulders his responsibilities."

Saint-Andre, who replaced Marc Lievremont after the 2011 World Cup final loss to the All Blacks, said that they had to look ahead.

"We were flying in November but now it's very tough. We are bottom of the table but we have to recover our precision and our spirit and not give up."

Saint-Andre told his team to show no fear when they tackle England on February 23 at Twickenham.

"We must not be scared. It's a fantastic challenge and while we may not be sure of ourselves we have to fight and show the desire to win. Rugby can always produce surprises and we must go there with our heads held high," he said.

AFP

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Team P W D L Pts
England 5 5 0 132 10
Wales 5 3 1 1 7
Ireland 5 2 1 2 5
Scotland 5 2 0 3 4
France 5 2 0 3 4
Italy 5 0 0 5 0