Noves’s description of his side’s 23-21 win over the Italians at Stade de France as “interesting” hinted at detachment, but Ireland can bank on the veteran coach being very hands on in the build-up to the Six Nations clash in Paris.
For the former Toulouse boss, taking charge of the national side at the age of 62 was always going to be a labour of love, and given the parlous state of the French squad after a miserable World Cup, he has made it clear that there will be no overnight success for Les Bleus.
Last Saturday’s opening 23-21 victory saw France scrape over the line, recovering from 18-10 down to edge in front with a monster Jules Plisson penalty and then wait with bated breath as Sergio Parisse sent a last-play drop goal attempt horribly wide.
“A tough win is always interesting in the life of a young squad,” Noves mused afterwards, and he found plenty of positives in his team’s performance, as well as several areas in need of improvement.
Whether those will come before Joe Schmidt’s Ireland come to the French capital or further down the road remains to be seen, but the head coach at the start of the long road wants to see some sort of progress over the early steps.
“We are starting from the bottom, we were in camp for a very short time with a very young team,” the France boss insisted.
“If we could have won by a bigger margin, we would have, but Italy could have won as well. So let’s enjoy the win.
“I want to focus on the enthusiasm the boys showed at times. We needed to be more lucid, and the first half didn’t have enough tempo. Our defensive form wasn’t good enough, which gave Italy a lot of possession and created a few gaps. But still, our enthusiasm was a big positive.
“We had talked about taking initiatives, there was an opportunity to score three points in the first half but the quick tap Gael Fickou took resulted in a try.
“It felt like, with this low tempo, the boys really wanted to let loose and play a faster game, which had been our message during the week. Each time we did that, we were dangerous. We will review our performance and hope to be better next week.”
What is clear is that it is not just Ireland who feel they have work to do on their scrummaging.
Italy gave France’s starting props Eddy Ben Arous and Rabah Slimani the runaround at times last weekend and Noves admitted it “wasn’t a great day” for the scrum.
He agreed: “We did have some difficulty in the second-half but I thought we got better afterwards. The two substitute props (debutant Camille Chat and Uini Atonio) made a real impact. The last set-piece could have resulted in a penalty for Italy, and I’m pretty happy that it didn’t, as it was what the Italian were looking for. I am proud of the reaction of the boys in that area.”