Takapuna - France coach Marc Lievremont's fractious relationship with his players has re-emerged with scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili upset that criticism of their unimpressive opening World Cup win against Japan was expressed through the media.
Lievremont lambasted his players in a news conference Sunday for allowing Japan to close the gap to 25-21 after trailing 20-3 in the team's opening Pool A match. France scored six tries to eventually win 47-21 on Saturday, but Lievremont was still angry at their lacklustre form.
The halfback pairing of Yachvili and No 10 Francois Trinh-Duc came in for some particularly harsh words, while flanker Imanol Harinordoquy was vilified by Lievremont for his attitude on the pitch.
Yachvili was annoyed that he heard the criticism from a journalist rather than from Lievremont before the conference.
"It's a real pleasure, it's touching," Yachvili said sarcastically on Tuesday. "No, I would prefer to be told directly rather than going through the press. He spoke out in anger. I probably deserved him saying it, or not. (But) I would rather it happened another way."
In March, Lievremont launched an astonishing attack on his team after they lost to Italy in the Six Nations, describing his players as "cowards" and threatening to refuse to select some of them to ever wear the national jersey again.
He later apologised for his outburst, but for the second World Cup in a row France will replace their coach at the end of the tournament. Lievremont took over from Bernard Laporte after the 2007 edition, and Philippe Saint-Andre will become France coach after this event.
Yachvili, who plays for Biarritz, touched upon how things are different for him at club level.
"At Biarritz over the last four years, if they had something to tell me they did it to my face without problem," he said. "It has to stay intimate because it's something that stays between the coach and the player. A coach has to be a bit of a psychologist as well."
Still, he insists there is no animosity between him and Lievremont.
"He's under a lot of pressure from the press as well. I don't hold it against him," Yachvili said. "But it's up to me to prove him wrong, as well."
Aurelien Rougerie, who will captain France with flanker Thierry Dusautoir rested for the match, also felt Lievremont could have cut his players a little slack.
"We're not naive, either," Rougerie said. "We know how we did. We weren't happy with our own performance."
Yachvili, a veteran of 53 caps, makes way for Morgan Parra against Canada in France's match on Sunday.
While he does not contest that decision, because he feels squad rotation is crucial to keeping players fresh, Yachvili insists the criticism aimed at him and Trinh-Duc is excessive.
"What you need to do is fulfill your end of the bargain (and win), which is what we did," Yachvili said. "Which is why I find it a bit upsetting when I hear certain things, because the essential thing is to win, even though we didn't do it in style. What would people have said if we had won 28-27?"
Center David Marty, who came on in the second half against Japan, also thinks the players deserve a bit of a break.
"Of course we want to do better," he said. "But we shouldn't start panicking after the first match in a World Cup."
Given that Lievremont has paired Trinh-Duc with five different scrumhalves since giving him his debut in 2008, demanding that the halves play with seamless efficiency appears somewhat unrealistic.
"The system's like that," Yachvili said. "It's been years that we haven't wanted to put a fixed halfback pairing in place, because as soon as we have a bad match it's because of the halfback pairing - which can mask other problems."
Despite all the criticism, France received a bonus point in the victory
Considering Scotland's laborious win against Romania, Ireland's patchy performance against the United States and England's struggles against Argentina, France's result was not the worst of the first week.
"I haven't seen a hammering since the start of the tournament, the so-called weaker teams have managed to take up the challenge," Yachvili said. "When I see the other results, I tell myself we didn't play that badly because I think the Japanese will cause problems for a lot of teams."