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France to banish 2013 nightmares

Wed, 15 Jan 2014 09:15
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I hope this year will be the year of effectiveness
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France coach Philippe Saint-Andre vowed to banish a "difficult" 2013 to history and make this year one of "effectiveness" from his team.

France's miserable 2013 saw them lose eight out of 11 internationals, winning just two and drawing one.

Their only two victories were home Tests against Scotland (23-16) in March and Tonga (38-18) in November.

But Saint-Andre claims last year was one of transition and that his side is gearing up for bigger and better this time around.

"2013 was a more than a difficult year from a results point of view," he told France Televisions at a presentation event for the Six Nations, which begins next month.

"We embarked on a new cycle, a new generation and the apprenticeship was painful.

"I hope this year will be the year of effectiveness."

France finished bottom of last year's Six Nations championship for the first time and it was their first wooden spoon since the last Five Nations championship in 1999.

But Saint-Andre points to the standard of opposition Les Bleus faced last year as a hint of a silver lining to the dark clouds of 2013.

Four of their defeats came against world champions and undisputed world number ones New Zealand, while they also lost to second-ranked South Africa.

Defeats to fourth-ranked England and sixth-ranked Wales - France are ranked fifth - are also forgivable but the 23-18 reverse away to Italy (13th) is the one result that really sticks in the throat.

"We've got greater aptitude, greater experience. We're lucky to have played four times against the world champions and against South Africa," added Saint-Andre.

"We gleaned experience against the two best teams in the world. Now we have to show that on the field; it's good to battle the best, but it's better to beat them."

France's new season begins with the visit of England on February 1 to the Stade de France in their opening Six Nations match.

And Saint-Andre is fully focussed on ensuring they start the new year with a victory.

"We have two weeks to prepare. Compared to last year, the level of the international players' form is reassuring.

"There's quite a few players in our group of 30 who played very well in the European Cup last weekend.
"That augurs well for the Six Nations."

AFP

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