Saint-Andre looks at positives

Sun, 23 Jun 2013 16:52
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France coach Philippe Saint-Andre says he has taken several positives from the series whitewash against New Zealand.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre defended his decision to play three Tests against world champions New Zealand on Sunday which resulted in a 3-0 whitewash saying the only way to get better was to play sides of the highest quality.

The 46-year-old - who replaced Marc Lievremont after the 2011 World Cup Final when France lost 7-8 to the All Blacks - has seen his side win just once in eight Test matches this year, 23-16 over Scotland in their final Six Nations match.

It was not enough to save them from ending up with their first wooden spoon since 1999 when it was the Five Nations.

However, Saint-Andre, like backs coach Patrice Lagisquet and scrum coach Yannick Bru, said the series against the All Blacks had been positive in the sense of unearthing new talent and he could not fault the spirit that the players had chosen coming at the end of a long season.

"If we had wanted to improve our statistics, it would have been better to have gone on a tour of Romania or Fiji," said Saint-Andre, who started his coaching career at English club Gloucester where he finished his stellar playing days.

"It is by playing the best that one improves and makes progress.

"We also were able to look at a lot of players, we blooded seven new caps during the tour.

"In a very long season, I would like to salute the players on their workrate and their physical engagement they put into the three Tests.

"The big disappointment is that we are not coming home with a win in any of them. For that I take the responsibility, the statistics are not good.

“We will listen to those that know what they are talking about, we will keep on working, we know where we are going and the players know deep down that they are not far away from achieving something."

Saint-Andre, a wing who was capped 69 times captaining France in 34 of those, said that these goals could be achieved quicker if he had more time with the players.

"We have a huge amount of young talent. If we are given the time to work with this group...there is an enormous amount of potential."

Bru and Lagisquet highlighted some of those players that Saint-Andre alluded to with the former saying he was confident that Stade Francais lock Alexandre Flanquart, 23, was one of the future stars of the French team while Lagisquet, like Saint-Andre a former French wing, was especially complimentary about Bordeaux-Begles flyhalf Camille Lopez, 24, and 29-year-old Castres No.10 Remi Tales.

Their performances, in the first and third Tests, once again put Saint-Andre at odds with many people over his blind faith in the unpredictable Toulon veteran Frederic Michalak, who once again produced a poor performance in the 0-30 drubbing in the second Test.

Saint-Andre, who defended him stoutly during the Six Nations after a series of poor displays, said he might consider performing a u-turn and keep Michalak at his club position of scrumhalf.

"Automatically when you play in a different position for your club, it takes time to adapt," he said.

"We regard him as a great player. He is a world-class kicker as well. He will certainly have to undergo a shoulder operation, and it will take him time to come back, we will study his club performances and we will see if he ends up playing scrumhalf or flyhalf."

However, Saint-Andre, said that while he shouldered the responsibility for the results, those could improve if the age old problem of the clubs giving him a longer spell with the players ahead of Test matches could be finally resolved.

"We do not know when we will get the players in November," he said.

"If we only get them five days before the Test with the All Blacks then it will make the preparations for the match very complicated.

"We do not want the 23-man squad to play Top 14 games the weekend before the All Blacks game.

"What we have to shape up and realise is that French rugby can no longer be that of 1995, the era when I played.

"Nothing has evolved since. The other countries have two weeks to prepare before the November Tests and before the Six Nations. Our players deserve to run the 100 metres from the same starting line."