Six Nations

Saint-Andre remains upbeat

2015-02-08 14:00
Philippe Saint Andre (AFP)

Paris - While reigning champions Ireland eventually romped to victory in Italy and England impressed in defeating Wales, France began their Six Nations campaign in stuttering fashion.

Ireland were made to sweat for 65 minutes in Rome before exploiting the sin-binning of Leonardo Ghiraldini to score two tries in an ultimately clear 26-3 victory.

England produced a dominant second half display to come away from the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff with a 21-16 success that deserved to be more emphatic.

But at the Stade de France in Paris, the inconsistent hosts toiled throughout, failed to score a try and limped past Scotland 15-8.

Yet coach Philippe Saint-Andre was putting on a brave face ahead of next weekend's trip to Dublin that will provide a considerably harder challenge for Les Bleus, who looked curious on Saturday playing in a red strip resembling a side representing Spain.

But he did admit improvements were needed before the trip to Ireland, let alone the World Cup which starts in September.

"Of course I need to fix it for the World Cup but already I need to do so for next week," he said.

"We found the solutions to get close to the line, as happened in the second half when we dominated and forced penalties. There were some very good things.

"OK, we lacked patience close to the line, we needed one or two more rucks to score.

"During the match there were some very good things but it's true we needed to score more. There were a few imprecisions when we could have scored points."

- missed chances -

France did look electric at times with ball in hand, particularly through the pace of centre Wesley Fofana and wing Teddy Thomas, or even the bulldozing power of Mathieu Bastareaud.

With five clean breaks to three, 18 defenders beaten to 12 and 15 passes after contact to nine, the anomaly is that France failed to score a try while Scotland did.

The hosts came closest when Yoann Huget broke down the right after Tim Visser's reckless and misjudged attempt at an interception.

But the Toulouse wing seemed to lack decisiveness as he approached the line and ran straight into the final defender before knocking on.

For all France's ability in the backline, they failed to put the phases together to string Scotland out across the park and create gaps or an overlap.

Their best try-scoring chances came after Scottish No.8 Johnnie Beattie was sin-binned and they kicked the resulting penalty to the corner.

But despite having three goes at driving mauls deep inside the Scottish 22, France got nowhere near scoring and eventually undid their own good work by infringing.

They enjoyed 54 percent possession and 55 percent territorial advantage during the game but Scotland were never pushed beyond arm's length.

France cannot expect to enjoy the lion's share of the ball in Dublin, nor dominance in territorial terms, and will need to be more clinical with what the champions allow them.

For Saint-Andre, though, there was much to enjoy in the stale performance -- at least in comparison to their previous match, an 18-13 defeat to Argentina in November in which they scored the only try but still lost.

"There was a lot of movement and play, we had a lot of passes and moved the ball around. We lacked the final pass and there were a few imprecisions, but also because the Scots were present and defended very well," said the former Toulon coach.

"I think we must look at the positives: we knew how to win this match, despite not scoring a try.

"I'd have prefered not to score a try against Argentina and win the game."

With that sort of pragmatism, the inconsistent French are unlikely to roll back the years in Dublin with a vintage display of swashbuckling rugby.

Saint-Andre will probably settle for a close kicking game settled by the odd penalty.

Read more on:    france  |  six nations  |  philippe saint-andre  |  rugby
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