Saint-Andre: Stop the invasion!
Philippe Saint-Andre (File)
London - France coach Philippe Saint-Andre repeated his call for a cut in the number of foreign players in French rugby after a 23-13 loss to England left his side rooted to the foot of the Six Nations table.
Although a team showing seven changes and a positional switch from the one beaten by champions Wales produced a much improved performance at Twickenham, they couldn't prevent pre-tournament favourites France suffering a third straight defeat.
This latest reverse meant 'Les Bleus' had lost their opening three matches for the first time in the Six Nations, something no France side had experienced in Championship terms since an equally poor start to the 1982 Five Nations.
A superb solo try by Wesley Fofana, moved back into the centre from the wing, helped France into a 10-9 interval lead, with recalled scrumhalf Morgan Parra kicking a conversion and a penalty.
However, Parra missed penalties either side of half-time and England, thanks to a try from Manu Tuilagi, saw the Grand Slam-chasers establish a decisive seven-point lead.
Early on, France flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc, in for Frederic Michalak (who later came off the bench), produced some neat touches.
But with the likes of England great Jonny Wilkinson as well as fellow overseas fly-halves Juan Martin Hernandez, James Hook, Brock James, Luke McAllister, Paul Warwick, David Kirkpatrick, Gavin Hume and Felipe Contepomi all operating in France's Top 14, with Ireland's Jonathan Sexton set to join Racing Metro next season, Saint-Andre made no apologies for flagging up an issue he also raised during Les Bleus' victorious November campaign.
"We need to be careful about our league and leave some space for French players," he said.
Reflecting on the match, Saint-Andre said France had paid the price for failing to take their chances.
"England were very pragmatic. They didn't do amazing things but they were very, very accurate," said the former France wing, who scored one of the greatest tries ever seen at Twickenham back in 1991, albeit in a 21-19 loss.
"We had an opportunity at 10-9 to go four points in front and I think England were not as confident as they were the game before. But when we have the opportunity we need to finish it."
It was a point echoed by France captain Thierry Dusautoir, who said: "We made far too many mistakes and that was inexcusable.
"With seven minutes to go we were only seven points behind but we committed another mistake and they (England) scored a penalty and it was beyond us."
Meanwhile a frustrated Fofana added: "I don't know what happened. In the first half we played well and communicated and the second half we were completely the reverse. Nothing worked."
A visibly depressed Saint-Andre insisted: "We are very sad but we know this team has a lot to bring and that each game will be better and better.
"The young players need to learn. The taste of losing is terrible but they must keep this in their mouths and work to improve and be more professional in everything - fitness, skills and diet - because at the high level, you win or you lose on small details.
"At the moment small details are not on our side."
Saint-Andre said a final quarter where England's replacements outplayed their French counterparts had been key to the outcome.
"We expected a little bit more of our bench. We also need to respect the ball more. So many times we tried to offload when it was impossible and we lost too many balls in the contact area.
"For a lot of guys this was the first time they played at Twickenham. I just hope they will learn a lot about this game and what's important for us is to build a squad for the next World Cup."