Philippe Saint-Andre keeps stars on their toes

Pool D: France v Canada

Philippe Saint-Andre keeps stars on their toes

Philippe Saint-Andre has said that the world will not be privy to another of the tongue-lashings he delivered to his team during the break against Romania last week, but only because he will drag his players out of sight and into the showers if the need arises.

It would be comforting for Ireland were the French coach to blow his top again tonight in Milton Keynes though the impression is that, if nothing else, the scheduling is working in their favour ahead of the defining meeting with Ireland on Sunday week.

Once this evening’s duties are done with, the French will find themselves with 10 days to retool for that clash in Cardiff and Saint-Andre has named close to his strongest side for this meeting with a Canadian side that must be mentally and physically suspect.

Only five days have passed since the North Americans failed to claim what would have been a deserved win against Italy and Romania awaits five days down the line, all of which means they are only halfway through a roster which demands three outings in just 10 days.

It is a punishing schedule for any nation, let alone one from the second tier with limited resources, and their Kiwi coach Kieran Crowley admits that he has had to factor all that in to his approach for this game.

“That’s the biggest challenge when you have short turnarounds, the mental side of it. You put a lot into it physically, but you also put a lot into it mentally. When I was involved in test match rugby it used to take me about a week to come back down before I was ready to go again.”

Canada will have to square away the pain of that defeat to the Italians and hope that the half-dozen changes Crowley has made will prove enough to inject the team with the freshness needed to stay with their opponents.

Saint-Andre has made twice the number of alterations for this one, reverting in large part to the side that saw off Italy 32-10 on their first night, though it is one which will have to do without the on-form number eight Louis Picamoles who has been given the evening off. “It keeps everyone on their toes,” said full-back Scott Spedding.

“Everyone is keen to play. At training everyone is putting their hand up to earn a spot and the coaches give everyone a chance. We’re getting to the home straight of the knockout stages and everyone is keen to play.

“It’s healthy for competition.”

Most intriguing for France tonight is the Test debut for Castres’ Remy Grosso on one wing and full-back Brice Dulin on the other. Grosso may yet start against Ireland if he shines tonight while Grosso has been picked due to the extra skills he offers along the tramlines.

Ultimately, Saint-Andre needs to see a French side that has ironed out the kinks. Better rucking has been pinpointed, improved discipline too, while a tendency to drift out of games for long periods is another habit that needs to be dropped.

A tiring Canada should provide the ideal canvas for them. If not then France are indeed in trouble.

France:

S Spedding; R Grosso, M Bastareaud, W Fofana, B Dulin; F Michalak, S Tillous-Borde; E Ben Arous, G Guirado, R Slimani; P Pape, Y Maestri; T Dusautoir (capt), B Le Roux, D Chouly.

Canada:

M Evans; P Mackenzie, C Hearn, N Blevins, DTH van der Merwe; N Hirayama, P Mack,; H Buydens, A Carpenter, D Wooldridge; B Beukeboom, J Cudmore; K Gilmour, R Thorpe, T Ardron (capt).

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