Pressure on for Noves' France

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 20:58
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Guy Noves' France team will be under pressure to perform when it matters as they take on England in their Six Nations opener on Saturday.

A tough trip to Twickenham will be just the tester Noves will want after seeing his team play some good rugby in the November internationals but freeze in the "red zone" against Australia and New Zealand.

"We have to go there without any complexes," admitted lock Sebastien Vahaamahina.

Since those November defeats by the Wallabies and All Blacks, tempered by a straightforward victory over Samoa, French rugby has a new federation head in the shape of former international coach Bernard Laporte.

And further pressure to perform comes from the May 10 draw for 2019 World Cup in Japan, with France not wanting to drop beyond the eighth spot they currently occupy in world rankings for fear of being drawn in a tougher pool.

"We've made a lot of progress in one year, in our game and spirit. But now we have to win games," South African-born fullback Scott Spedding said.

"It's been some time since France played a good Six Nations [last time winning in 2010]. So that's very important. We mustn't simply play good matches, we have to win them as well."

And it doesn't get any tougher than a run-out at Twickenham against world second-ranked England, who are on a run of 13 consecutive victories.

France will have to do without centre Wesley Fofana (Achilles), the most experienced player in the backline, "a leader", according to backs coach Jean-Frederic Dubois.

Playing alongside Clermont teammate Remi Lamerat had also paid dividends, but Dubois did not want to dwell on the cruel fate injury throws up.

"Other partnerships can also work," he maintained, with Toulouse's Gael Fickou the most obvious answer to line up alongside Lamerat.

Since taking over Les Bleus in December 2015, Noves has overseen six matches, four ending in defeat, and the former long-time Toulouse coach has decried the team's lack of realism, saying he wants some "killers" close the opponents' line.

"We create opportunities for ourselves so there's a level of frustration among the players when we held our debrief of the match against New Zealand," Dubois said of that 24-19 defeat when France dominated territory and possession for large periods of the game, blaming a "lack of concentration and patience".

"There's always something missing in the final pass."

Forwards coach Yannick Bru said it came down to having "good reflexes at moments of stress".

"That's what separates average teams from very good ones, and that's the problem of all teams in a stage of evolution," Bru said, adding that Les Bleus needed "victories over leading nations".

Agence France-Presse

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 15 December 2017
Ulster v Harlequins 19h45 Kingspan Stadium
Sat, 16 December 2017
Montpellier v Glasgow Warriors 13h00 Altrad Stadium
Treviso v Scarlets 13h00 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Leinster v Exeter Chiefs 15h15 Aviva Stadium
Racing Metro v Castres 15h15 Stade Yves-du-Manoir
Bath v Toulon 17h30 Recreation Ground
Sun, 17 December 2017
Wasps v La Rochelle 13h00 Ricoh Arena
Clermont Auvergne v Saracens 15h15 Stade Marcel-Michelin
Ospreys v Northampton Saints 15h15 Liberty Stadium
Leicester Tigers v Munster 17h30 Welford Road
RESULT SCORE
Mon, 11 December 2017
Saracens v Clermont Auvergne 14 | 46
Sun, 10 December 2017
Exeter Chiefs v Leinster 8 | 18
Harlequins v Ulster 5 | 17
La Rochelle v Wasps 49 | 29
Sat, 09 December 2017
Munster v Leicester Tigers 33 | 10
Castres v Racing Metro 16 | 13
Northampton Saints v Ospreys 32 | 43
Toulon v Bath 24 | 20
Scarlets v Treviso 33 | 28
Fri, 08 December 2017
Glasgow Warriors v Montpellier 22 | 29
Sun, 03 December 2017
Harlequins v Saracens 20 | 19
Sat, 02 December 2017
Cheetahs v Scarlets 28 | 21
Munster v Ospreys 36 | 10
Wasps v Leicester Tigers 32 | 25
Treviso v Leinster 10 | 36
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
England 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0
France 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0