French play of the 'highest quality'
Sun, 09 Feb 2014 22:25
We didn't panic
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said the most important thing to take from his side's 30-10 victory over Italy in the Six Nations match on Sunday was they had put together back-to-back wins for the first time since November 2012.
The 46-year-old - whose side beat only Scotland and Tonga in 11 Tests last year - was speaking after a devastating period of play in the opening 15 minutes of the second-half which saw France go from leading 9-3 to be 30-3 up.
The last time France beat both England - who they overcame 26-24 in the opening game last weekend - and Italy in Paris they went on to win the 2010 Grand Slam.
However, Saint-Andre - who must take his side to play two-time defending champions Wales in Cardiff on Friday week - wasn't focusing on such ambitions rather they had achieved something they failed to do last year.
"The main thing we should remember from this game is that we have back-to-back wins for the first time since 2012 and that is important," said the former France wing and captain, who took over from Marc Lievremont as coach after the 2011 World Cup final.
Saint-Andre, whose side finished bottom of the Six Nations last year, said he had been pleased his players had not lost their heads with the match evenly poised at 9-3.
"We didn't panic, and the players remained confident something would happen," he said.
"We had said throughout the week and at half-time that we would go for their throats at the beginning of the second-half which we failed to do against the English.
"And that is what we did. We produced play of the highest quality. We were more direct in attacking them, Mathieu Bastareaud held the centre of the pitch, and we moved the ball quicker...and as a result scored three tries."
Saint-Andre, who said that the game had been tougher than perhaps some of the spectators expected, praised the Italians for the manner in which they had come back at the French in the final quarter which saw them eventually got a consolation try.
However, he was less complimentary about the manner in which the game had degenerated and saw France replacement lock Sebastien Vahaamahina sin-binned for petulantly kicking the ball away minutes after coming on and then replacement prop Rabah Slimani sent off along with Italian Michele Rizzo for an exchange of headbutts.
It was the first time that two players had been sent off in a Five/Six Nations match since French duo Gregoire Lascube and Vincent Moscato were expelled in an infamous France-England clash in 1992.
"Like everyone else, the players got bored over the final 20 minutes, I mean we were I can tell you in the stands," said Saint-Andre.
"We had a yellow card, and I told Sebastien Vahaamahina that his gesture was totally out of place. Then there was our red card in which the Italian provoked him and he reacted badly.
"After that we were down to 13 players, it was rubbish rugby."
Italy coach Jacques Brunel, who guided the Italians to two wins in last year's tournament over the French and the Irish both in Rome, said he had found it a strange game.
"For 60-70 minutes we were a match for the French except for the opening minutes of the second-half completely changed the shape of the game," said the 60-year-old Frenchman, whose side next play Scotland in what could be the wooden spoon decider with both having failed to register a point yet.
"We dominated the scrum in the first-half and in the only scrum of the game that we lost (at the beginning of the second-half) they got a penalty, kicked to touch and subsequently scored a try (Louis Picamoles).
"That is a shame as I think over the whole of the match we were better than them in the scrum."
Brunel, who was scrum coach of the France side from 2001-2007 which saw them reach two World Cup semi-finals, said that nevertheless the French had deserved the victory.
"I do not contest at all the victory of the French, they played better than us.
"But overall I take positives from this game. The team kept at it till the end, never let their heads go down.
"What the players showed, is their ability to make progress even when the scoreline is not in their favour."
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