We’ll rediscover Slam form, says French boss Lièvremont

FRANCE coach Marc Lièvremont insists his Grand Slam champions can recover from their disastrous autumn series and win back-to-back Six Nations titles.

Speaking at the announcement of France’s squad for this year’s championship, Lièvremont expressed confidence that his side could defend their crown, despite visits to the Aviva Stadium and Twickenham.

“I feel that the appetite and determination to once again win is there,” he declared. “While the calendar isn’t perfect, it’s more balanced than last year. I’m happy to go to Ireland and England. The defeat at Twickenham (34-10) remains my worst memory alongside the Australia game but I think this squad are capable of winning the Six Nations.”

Lièvremont has been under huge pressure following an autumn international series which culminated in a 59-16 battering at the hands of Australia in Paris. Although he survived the subsequent inquest, his position remains under intense scrutiny in France.

The Toulouse quartet of Maxime Medard, Clement Poitrenaud, Vincent Clerc and David Skrela, who played no part in November’s matches, all return, while there is also a place for Biarritz’ veteran prop Sylvain Marconnet.

Toulon, who knocked Munster out of the Heineken Cup on Sunday, don’t have any representative in the squad.

However the French coach omitted controversial Stade Francais centre Mathieu Bastareaud, in-form Clermont winger Julien Malzieu and No.8 Louis Picamoles from his selection ahead of next month’s opener against Scotland at the Stade de France.

“I asked (Bastareaud) before November to work on his form and his state of mind but I wasn’t listened to,” slammed Lièvremont. “There are better players around in his position. If there’s an injury in the squad of 30, then Julien Malzieu will be called up because Clement Poitrenaud interests us (at centre).”

Meanwhile uncapped trio Jon Welsh, Rob Harley and Jack Cuthbert have been named in the Scotland squad for the Six Nations. Bath back Cuthbert has been included alongside Glasgow loosehead prop Welsh and his fellow Warrior Harley, who can play at flanker or lock, in the 34-man squad for next week’s training camp in St Andrews. Either Rory Lawson, Mike Blair or Alastair Kellock are likely to captain Scotland, having all done so in the last 12 months. Scotland have won five of their last six games and begin the Six Nations against France in Paris on February 5.

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