By Isabelle Rondeau
FRANCE captain Fabien Pelous claims he is "not panicking at all" after the RBS 6 Nations favourites were beaten by Scotland in their tournament opener.
Having entered the 6 Nations on a high after a flawless display in the November Test matches, Les Bleus were below par in all areas as they suffered a shock 20-16 defeat at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Fly-half Frederic Michalak looked particularly out-of-sorts, having failed to shake off his groin injury, and victory over Ireland is now essential to Pelous’ hopes of glory.
"This loss was a huge disappointment. We knew the start of the tournament would be tough but not that tough," the Toulouse lock said. "There were a lot of mistakes in our offensive game and we failed to put any pressure on the Scots.
"This was a rugby match and we lost it, but we must put this behind us. We lost one tie, but we have another four to play. We can win them all and the tournament too," he added.
The French captain played down reports in the French media, which branded the defeat "a catastrophe."
"Everyone claims this is a catastrophe but I am not panicking at all," he said. "We lost a match and that happens. Of course this is not nice, but we are fine and we will bounce back.
"If we start losing confidence because we have lost a rugby match then what is going to happen to us? We will use this setback to bounce back but it is out of the question to lose confidence."
Pelous is rallying his troops ahead of their clash with the Irish at the Stade de France and is in no doubt as to the likely outcome of the game.
"We will win because we have the means to do it," he added.
"We must think positive and ask ourselves why we lost against Scotland and how we are going to win the next match.
"Thinking that we were poor against the Scots and that we must bounce back is not good enough," he added. "We must react and we must make sure this reaction will have positive consequences in the future."
Meanwhile, the France directors have opted to strengthen their squad by bringing in Perpignan centre David Marty.
Coach Bernard Laporte and manager Jo Maso already extended their 22-man squad to 28 on Monday with the recall of Raphael Ibanez, flankers Olivier Magne and Serge Betsen, lock Pascal Pape, centre Damien Traille and winger Aurelien Rougerie.
Marty was added on Tuesday in a bid to sustain competition and test as many players as possible ahead of the World Cup, which is now Les Bleus’ top objective after chances of winning the Grand Slam this year were ruined.
Maso explained: "By extending the group further, the aim is to see the state of form of certain players who were recently injured."