Saint-Andre's new scapegoat
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 15:01
The league is more important than everything else
Philippe Saint-Andre has been complimentary of his players despite their series whitewash to Australia, but he has quickly criticised the Top 14 league as a parasite to French national rugby.
The French were blown away by the Wallabies in all but one Test, the narrow defeat in Melbourne, and Saint-Andre puts that down to some steely determination.
"The group continues to show incredible solidarity because, given the run we've been on, that could have disappeared completely," claimed Saint-Andre.
The 0-6 defeat in the second Test provided some respite, but the coach admits that at present they cannot compete with the best in the world - especially at the end of an 11 month season.
The second Test's resolve was thanks to their sheer will and desire to preserve their honour, but on Saturday, there was nothing left in the tank.
However, after praising his team's efforts, the coach added a back-handed comment admitting they cannot compete at the highest level.
Saint-Andre was then quick to turn on French domestic rugby, again lamenting the negative effect of the Top 14 on his international side.
The demanding and wealthy clubs, who have also overseen the influx of foreign players into the league at the expense of many young French players, have not made Saint-Andre's job easier.
Those he selects are often exhausted, while the talent pool at his disposal is drying up.
"We're suffering from this set up," he complained.
"France is the only place where the league is more important than everything else.
"What worries me is that we're getting more and serious injuries" he continued.
"If we don't realise that top players shouldn't play more than 28-30 games a year, we're going to keep having problems."
However, if the Top 14 poses problems, it also acts as an useful scapegoat, with Saint-Andre rarely accepting responsibility for questionable management and defensive tactics.
The French boss has left a positive message with the media for the next time his team steps out in the end of year Tests.
"In November, with the players fresh and with lots more preparation time, we will be capable of matching Australia and dominating them like in 2012 (33-6 victory)," he said.
The 47-year-old also believes that competition for places will help his side improves when he chooses his next squad, which could include South African-born scrum-half Rory Kockott who will become eligible for France in July.
"Competition for every position will give the players more motivation and make them work harder as they try to secure their place," he said.
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