France need killer instinct
Philippe Saint-Andre (AP)
Rome - France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has called on his players to rediscover the killer-instinct he said was sadly missing in the shock 23-18 Six Nations loss to Italy in Rome on Sunday.
It was the second straight time that the French have gone down in Rome and the defeat has cast a giant cloud over Saint-Andre's squad just weeks after a successful November Test series.
Leading 15-13 at half-time after rebounding from an early Sergio Parisse try, the French were expected to crank up the pressure from the break and secure a comfortable enough victory.
Instead, they looked disorganised and lacking in ideas as the Italians moved ahead thanks to a try from veteran prop Martin Castrogiovanni and held on in the face of a desperate late offensive from the French to celebrate a famous win.
Saint-Andre, in charge as coach for a second time in the Six Nations, said that he had kept his players up late into the night to go over video replays of the match to see where they had gone wrong.
"We tried to save the match through individual play instead of staying in the collective mode," he said.
"The Italians were at 100 percent, two tries from two turnovers, two drop goals. You just have to congratulate them. But when you are in control of the match, you have to remain disciplined.
"You have two or three chances to score tries and you do not take them. You can't get away with that. We need to be more decisive, be fresher and to be aggressive and unforgiving. We have a week to get our heads back up and get it right."
There was further setback for the French though on Monday with the news that skipper Pascal Pape will miss Saturday's match against Wales in Paris because of a back injury he picked up in Rome.
The Stade Francais lock, captaining the side for the first time in the Six Nations tournament, was injured halfway through the second half of the loss and was eventually taken to hospital for tests on his back.
Saint-Andre said Pape would be replaced in the 23-strong squad for the visit of the Welsh by Toulon's Jocelino Suta.
Who would take over from him as skipper was left open for the moment, although the armband is likely to revert to Toulouse back rower Thierry Dusautoir, who returned to the team for the Italy game after missing the November Tests due to a knee injury.
The French will also have to do without the services of top-scoring winger Vincent Clerc, who missed the Italy game due to a thigh injury picked up while playing for Toulouse and who has yet to fully recover.
Saint-Andre said that with just one week between the first two rounds of Six Nations games, the French would need to regroup quickly against a team who beat them 16-9 last year in Cardiff.
"We will need to show that we are real fighters on Saturday against the Welsh who will also have the bit between their teeth (following the 30-22 loss to Ireland in Cardiff)," he said.
"We will need to be really up for it, maybe even have some hate in our hearts. That is also the mark of a good team."