France’s improvement down to coach Saint-Andre half-time rebuke to forwards
French media are still unhappy with team’s performance
RBS Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 9/3/2013Ireland vs FranceFrance's Mathieu BastareaudMandatory Credit �INPHO/Colm O'Neill
Several French squad members revealed after the 13-13 draw in Dublin Saint-André had spent the interval laying into his team.
The forwards came in for much of the criticism for twice allowing Irish mauls to trundle deep into French territory in the first half.
“It really was a huge fit of anger,” said French secondrow Christophe Samson, who previously worked with the French coach at Toulon.
Clermont hooker Benjamin Kayser, however, said Saint-André’s half-time appeal had struck home with its audience.
“Philippe said to us: ‘We’re not going to talk rugby, you did nothing, you showed nothing! Where is the revolt that you promised?’ ”
Centre Mathieu Bastareaud, who came on in the second half, also felt Saint-André’s outburst had had the desired effect.
“I think we needed that to wake us up a little bit in light of a first half where we didn’t move enough and we weren’t aggressive enough in defence . . . even though it was more the forwards who were on the end of it,” he said.
[/CROSSHEAD]“They were hurt by the coach’s words and they returned to the field pumped up . . . That was evident from the first rucks, with forwards who you felt were dying of hunger.”
The result, according to prop Nicolas Mas, was the French players could “look each other in the eye” at the end of the game. There was a sense of relief too, however.
“We were saying that if we have to play for the wooden spoon against Scotland, it’s going to be carnage,” assistant coach Patrice Lagisquet said. “The media hype would have been difficult.2
Saturday’s performance impressed few in the French media, with one L’Equipe reporter pointing out that while everyone was aware of the term “winning ugly”, they now know an even more disconcerting phrase: “the ugly draw”.
Midi Olympique weighed up the arguments as to whether the team is making progress, asking “Should we believe in them?” on its front page.
Former France captain Fabien Galthié struck a more positive tone in his column in L’Equipe . Noting that for an hour the visitors were being beaten in virtually every sector, he felt the outcome was telling.
“The French team was under water,” he wrote. “Other teams would have blown up – this one reacted. That shows this team has potential but also the Irish one is limited.”
The “spark of rebellion” Galthié saw in the second half was not enough for former France coach Pierre Villepreux, in Midi Olympique .
“What’s worrying right now, beyond the results, is we aren’t able to rediscover a consistent game, which stays the course and is really in line with modern rugby.