Saint-Andre sets the bar low

Thu, 23 Jan 2014 11:38
Large pascal pap    philippe sain

France may have won the last four Six Nations following a B&I Lions tour, but coach Philippe Saint-Andre said that was no reason to expect similar success.

France may have won the last four Six Nations Championships following a British and Irish Lions tour but coach Philippe Saint-Andre said that was no reason to expect similar success this season.

Warren Gatland, the coach of reigning Six Nations champions Wales, who led the combined Lions side to a 2-1 series win in Australia last year, has said the first round France-England match in Paris on February 1, could determine the destiny of the title.

"You're right in terms of France normally being the favourites [after a Lions tour] Gatland told reporters at the Six Nations launch in London.

"That opening game in Paris between France and England, that potentially could determine the result of this tournament," the New Zealander added.

But Saint-Andre was wary of the history that suggests this should be France's turn to win the Six Nations just as they did in 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 following the four previous Lions tours.

And that's because in 2013 France had one of their worst years in recent times, winning just two out of 11 Tests and finishing bottom of the Six Nations table.

For former France captain Saint-Andre, a transformation form last to first in the space of a season, while welcome, would be almost too much to hope for.

"I hope that statistic about the Lions tour can be right again, but we cannot expect after our performance last year," Saint-Andre said.

"When the Lions finish late, in July, it is unusual for them and they play more games.

"But playing 40 games a year is nothing new for our players," he added of a France squad who all play their domestic rugby in the Top 14, arguably Europe's most gruelling national championship.

But Saint-Andre's biggest complaint about the Top 14 is the way in which wealthy club owners, in a quest for success, have filled their teams with overseas stars at the expense of French talent.

Saint-Andre is adamant the situation is now harming the national side to the extent they will enter the 2014 Six Nations without a single player who is the first-choice goal-kicker at their club.

Saint-Andre has seen the situation at first hand, having coached at big spenders Toulon, the reigning European champions, where he had no qualms about signing such foreign talent as Australia's Matt Giteau and Springbok star Bakkies Botha.

"I worked for Toulon and the chairman [millionaire publisher Mourad Boudjellal] is very ambitious. He said to me 'I want to win very quickly'. So I said 'OK, we'll sign Matt Giteau and Bakkies Botha'," Saint-Andre said.

"When you sign this type of player, you don't need five years before you get success. I worked in the Top 14, so I understand the pressures the coaches are under.

"But talented young French players are having to play in the second division to get any game time. The system needs to be improved.

"Toulon are a fantastic team...but in their last three games they only had three French players in their starting XV.

"It's unbelievable but 70 percent of the wings in the Top 14 are from Tonga, Fiji or New Zealand," added Saint-Andre, himself an outstanding wing in his playing days.

"We are in difficulty. The biggest problem is our kicker. None of our players are first choice kickers at their clubs.
"Maxime Machenaud is our kicker but is third choice for Racing Metro. This situation is a problem."

AFP

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 06 May 2016
Crusaders v Reds 07h35 Christchurch
Brumbies v Bulls 09h40 Canberra
Griffons v Eagles 15h00 Welkom
EP Kings v Blue Bulls 16h00 Port Elizabeth
Sat, 07 May 2016
Sunwolves v Force 05h15 Tokyo
Chiefs v Highlanders 07h35 Hamilton
Waratahs v Cheetahs 09h40 Sydney
Leopards v Boland 12h30 Potchefstroom
Griquas v Border 13h00 Kimberley
Sharks v Hurricanes 13h00 Durban
Pumas v Namibia 13h00 Mpumalanga
Golden Lions v Free State Cheetahs 13h00 Randburg
Wasps v London Irish 14h30 Ricoh Arena
Worcester Warriors v Saracens 14h30 Sixways
Bath v Leicester Tigers 14h30 Recreation Ground
Gloucester v Northampton Saints 14h30 Kingsholm
Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs 14h30 Twickenham
Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks 14h30 Kingston Park
Zebre v Dragons 15h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Munster v Scarlets 15h00 Thomond Park
Ospreys v Ulster 15h00 Liberty Stadium
Connacht v Glasgow Warriors 15h00 Sportsground
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 15h00 BT Murrayfield
Leinster v Treviso 15h00 RDS
Kings v Blues 15h05 Port Elizabeth
Sharks v Western Province 15h30 Durban
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
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