Lievremont happy for rookies to ‘suffer’

FRANCE head coach Marc Lievremont maintains the second-half implosion against Ireland should not cloud the overall impression of his side’s progress during the first two rounds of the RBS 6 Nations Championship.

“I think this will be good for the players,” said Lievremont, who was hired after the World Cup when Bernard Laporte stepped down. “It is good to win after suffering like that.”

Lievremont was proud of his players, even though their scrum was largely inferior to the Irish one in the second-half especially when prop Julien Brugnaut came on.

“We were largely dominant,” said Lievremont, who has started in winning fashion with wins over Scotland and the Irish. “We ran the match well but the final run-in we did suffer. Nevertheless we showed courage and defended our line well. I am very proud of the players. They will have learnt a lot from this game and withstood a lot of pressure in the final 10 minutes.

“There were excellent tries and great team spirit but I guess as a coach you always need more and want more,” added Lievremont, who has made radical changes to the side since taking over as he builds towards the 2011 World Cup.

France captain Lionel Nallet admitted it had been tough but paid special credit to winger Vincent Clerc, who once again proved the thorn in Ireland’s side as he scored three tries in the first-half — taking his tally to six against them in the last three tests.

“It’s enormous,” Nallet said of Clerc’s haul. “It is a great achievement to score three tries in a Six Nations match particularly against a side as good as Ireland. However, overall it was a very good all round team performance. It was hard but important to undergo 20 minutes of suffering. But yes I was scared in those minutes.”

Nallet, who was a surprise choice for the captaincy, said that the spirit showed by the players would stand them in great stead.

“I asked the players to dig deep. I said to them, ‘There are five minutes left. Lets be courageous and keep our hands on the ball.”

Nallet admitted, though, that the whole experience had been exhausting. We were falling back everywhere I looked. It was mentally very difficult and it makes you so tired. The Irish are a very good team. We kept losing the ball. Once they have the ball they are dangerous.”

Lievremont will have been stunned at Les Bleus’ sudden problems at the set-piece — especially at the scrum — and their failure to manage the game when the going got tough.

But ahead of the home clash with England in a fortnight’s time, the former France flanker insists his young, inexperienced squad cannot be too unhappy with their progress so far.

“Looking at things overall, it isn’t because the end of this match was disappointing that we aren’t happy with the players who have played in the first two games,” he said.

“We can take a lot of things from them. It is good to win by suffering”.

Lievremont vowed before the Ireland match that he would make changes to his squad for England, and this weekend’s game will only reinforce that decision.

Some aspects of his side’s play were highly impressive. The back three of wingers Clerc and Aurelien Rougerie and full-back Heymans looked dangerous every time they received the ball, individually and as a unit.

In Clerc, who became only the sixth Frenchman to score a hat-trick in the Five/Six Nations, they have Europe’s most deadliest finisher, while Heymans — a try scorer in the 50th minute — is proving to be a great strike-runner from deep.

But the scrum also malfunctioned alarmingly when prop Lionel Faure and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski went off to be replaced by Julien Brugnaut and William Servat.

Elissalde said: “We must be realistic. It is part of the apprenticeship of this squad, and it is interesting.

“Against Scotland, we had an enormous amount of success and the match turned out being easy. Against Ireland, we were put in difficulty and you can see that the wind can change direction very quickly in an international match.”

Clerc, meanwhile, is building on a reputation he carved for himself during last year’s Six Nations and World Cup, and has scored five tries already.

“It is true that I am in a good run of form but that doesn’t mean I will score one, two, three or four tries against England in two weeks,” he said.

“I don’t go around shouting off like that. What I am sure of is that my preparation for the World Cup has done a lot for me. It has allowed me to become durable.”

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