Saint-André tries to find a crumb of comfort

“We don’t have that many injuries compared to Ireland. They have two, maybe three very serious injuries”

Yoann Maestri is surprisingly a gentle soul. After this almost insipid French showing this beast of a Toulouse lock went, armed with his number five jersey, in search of a prized possession.

"I came into the Ireland changing room to see Paul but he had left to go to the clinic. It is bad news for the Ireland group and for the World Cup because he is a great warrior, not just in this game but in so many games past.

“He is a very good person, a good leader. When I fight against somebody I want to win but I don’t want injury for them. Is he out of the tournament?”

That may be it we tell Maestri. No more Paul O’Connell. He grabs my elbow and disagrees with a smile. Not the end.

“But now he goes to Toulon so I hope to see him again in Toulouse and play against him one more time, and then take a drink with him. He is one of the great players.”

Philippe Saint-André saw positives in looking at Irish negatives.

“We don’t have that many injuries compared to Ireland,” said the French coach, embattled again, which is the norm really. “They have two, maybe three very serious injuries.”

France are fine though. The All Blacks come into view now. Will 2007 be used as motivation?

“Yeah,” laughed Saint-André. “Of course!”

Thierry Dusautoir smiles at the mere hint of his career-long nemesis. The 2007 victory, still the flanker's greatest performance, and 2011 loss, still the flanker's second greatest showing, are mentioned.

He smiles, answers politely but gives little away.

Then a wonderfully long question from a French journalist elicits a suitable response. But Thierry, what will you do when your teammates ask about 2007, in this stadium, about that night when what seemed the greatest ever assembled All Blacks were felled to earth?

“Well, yes,” he smiled again, “but every match is different. It was a different context in 2007. A different team. These teams today have a different history, a different experience. There is enough within ourselves to not have to look back to eight years ago, to four years ago.”

“Of course against New Zealand it is going to be the toughest, they are the best team in the world.”

It’s 8pm in Cardiff. An occasion not to be missed.

“Personally I have played 11 or 12 times against the All Blacks. Every time we were not favourites but that didn’t stop us from beating them. In the last World Cup we came very close.

Extremely intense

“Even thought we lost today it was extremely intense. Nobody was pretending. Everything is possible. We know we have a big challenge, maybe the biggest challenge.”

Maestri towers up to his full two metres in height when the New Zealand game is mentioned.

“We must show our best face.”

But you always do against them?

“Yeah, in the past. Now we are in the present. We must do something good now with this French team. We must address this loss, this disappointment.”

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