Patience of French public has its limits

France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre insists the post-2011 World Cup rebuilding phase is over as he targets a critical RBS 6 Nations victory over England today.

Patience of French public has its limits

Les Bleus, struggling from the number of overseas players competing in their domestic league, have won only two of their last 11 matches and finished last season’s championship bottom of the table.

Saint-Andre insists that while there has been sympathy for France as they seek to establish a settled line-up, it will soon run out unless they start winning.

“This match is huge for us because we need to start the Six Nations with a win,” Saint-Andre said.

“England performed well last year, while 2013 was very, very disappointing for us. But we knew it would be difficult with so many new players.

“The French public love the French team. They understand. But they also want success, so it’s time for us to win some games.

“And we always say, ’if you beat England then your international season is not so bad’. So it’s huge for us.”

France have won the Six Nations in each year after the last four Lions tours, but Saint-Andre insists the Top 14 demands even more of his own players.

“My experience, from having worked in England, is that after players have played for the Lions, they have less preparation time than normal. They do not have the six weeks as normal.

“But for us it’s like we have the Lions each year because we only have 10 or 12 days’ maximum of preparation. Our guys play 40 games each year. The structure of the Top 14 means you can’t go against this.”

England are promising a bold approach, and attacking skills coach Mike Catt says wings Jack Nowell and Jonny May have been given free rein to attack in Paris today.

Uncapped Nowell has enjoyed a tackle-busting season at Exeter while the jet-heeled May, making his second Test appearance, is know for his ability to score from range at Gloucester.

“Something we’ve reiterated to the players is if it’s on, then go. They make their decision — whatever they see they should do,” Catt said.

“If Jonny sees something then he goes, guys have to react around him.

“Jonny’s there on merit and for how he plays his game. We don’t want him to change the way he plays.”

Catt believes the Stade de France showdown will only be decided in the closing stages and expects a ferocious assault from Les Bleus’ pack.

“France have picked a six-two bench so you know what’s coming,” Catt said.

“They’re big, physical guys and for you to break them down will take until the 70th to 75th minute. I think the game will be won in that final 10-15 minutes.

“You’ve got to be smart. Just because we have good attacking runners doesn’t mean we run everything. It’s about getting the balance right.

“Players are getting bigger and more agile and your tight five are a lot more mobile than they were seven or eight years ago.

“Your centres are the size of your back row, your wings are the size of your back row, so try getting through that brick wall. There’s a massive emphasis on defence at the moment and you have to break that down. It’s hard.”

England’s Northampton flanker Tom Wood says only victory is acceptable as the Red Rose look to make up for losing last year’s Six Nations on the final day, when they were demolished by Wales.

“As a team we’re in a good place now where we’re not just trying to win, we’re expecting to win,” he said.

“To come off and accept a loss isn’t in my nature or this team’s nature.”

While England have been treated with a degree of leniency in the first two years of Stuart Lancaster’s reign as head coach, a sense of urgency in their quest for silverware has developed after successive second-place finishes in the Six Nations.

“We definitely want something to show for all our efforts. We’ve got the talent,” Wood said.

FRANCE: B Dulin (Castres); Y Huget (Toulouse), M Bastareaud (Toulon), W Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), M Medard (Toulouse); J Plisson (Stade Francais), J-M Doussain (Toulouse); T Domingo (Clermont Auvergne), B Kayser (Clermont Auvergne), N Mas (Montpellier), A Flanquart (Stade Francais), P Pape (Stade Francais, capt), Y Nyanga (Toulouse), B Le Roux (Racing Metro), L Picamoles (Toulouse).

Replacements: D Szarzewski (RacingMetro), Y Forestier (Castres), R Slimani (Stade Francais), Y Maestri (Toulouse), A Burban (Stade Francais), D Chouly (Clermont Auvergne), M Machenaud (Racing Metro), G Fickou (Toulouse).

ENGLAND: M Brown (Harlequins); J Nowell (Exeter), L Burrell (Northampton), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), J May (Gloucester); O Farrell (Saracens), D Care (Harlequins); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Vunipola (Saracens).

Replacements: T Youngs (Leicester), M Vunipola (Saracens), H Thomas (Sale Sharks), D Attwood (Bath), B Morgan (Gloucester), L Dickson (Northampton), B Barritt (Saracens), A Goode (Saracens).

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox