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Saint-Andre has no regrets

Sun, 02 Mar 2014 19:03
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We have two matches of a very high level
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France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre insisted he had no regrets about suspending Louis Picamoles from next weekend's Six Nations clash with Scotland despite the latter's stunning form.

Picamoles was at his usual bristling and marauding best for Toulouse on Saturday in a crushing 37-9 defeat of Perpignan.

But he will be missing from Murrayfield next Saturday after he was punished by the French team for sarcastically applauding Irish referee Alain Rolland last weekend when he was sin-binned against Wales.

"I saw all the [Top 14[ matches [this weekend] and Louis produced a quality performance," said Saint-Andre.

"But then again, he knows why he is out of the group. The essence of our sport is control and respect for the referee's decisions.

"At an international level we are not allowed to applaud the referee after getting a yellow card.

"He knows that. He responded in the best way with a quality performance by passing and advancing. He was very, very good."

Saint-Andre also insisted that the decision to suspend Picamoles from the next Six Nations encounter showed no hint of double standards.

Clermont scrumhalf Morgan Para was originally included in the France 30-man preparatory squad for Saturday's match despite being sent-off last weekend for head-butting Montpellier's New Zealander Rene Ranger.

Para was subsequently banned for two weeks and as a result was ineligible for the Scotland game.

"There is a presumption of innocence in our country. We were obliged to pick him in the 30-strong group according to the rules between the French Rugby Federation and the clubs," said Saint-Andre.

"If we hadn't taken him prior to appearing before the [disciplinary] commission, that would have meant that we too thought he would be punished.

"From the moment he was guilty, we took him out of the group."

The pair will be a huge loss for France in this crucial match they must win if they wish to finish top of the pile at the end of the championship.

* Meanwhile hooker Guilhem Guirado has been called up to the France squad for next weekend's Six Nations match in Scotland, after Dimitri Szarzewski was ruled out with an ankle injury, the French Federation (FFR) said on Sunday.

Guirado, 27, won the last of his 18 international caps in June last year during a test in New Zealand.

France will be without their two first-choice hookers after Szarzewski injured his ankle in a French Top 14 match with his club Racing Metro on Saturday.

Benjamin Kayser was already sidelined for six weeks when he picked up a knee problem last month.

Having beaten England (26-24) and Italy (30-10) in their first two matches, last weekend's heavy reverse in Wales (27-6) was a major setback for Les Bleus and Saint-Andre is adamant they need a big performance against Scotland, whom Ireland (28-6) - France's final opponents at the Stade de France a week later - and England (20-0) have already beaten comfortably.

"First and foremost we're going to concentrate on the next match and try to give ourselves a [title] final at the Stade de France against Ireland.

"We're first ex aequo [equal, on points with Wales, Ireland and England], we have two matches of a very high level [to come] and we must do everything we can to win the Six Nations, starting with a massive performance in Scotland."

AFP

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