France urged to keep possession

2015-10-15 17:28
Philippe Saint-Andre (Gallo)

Newport - Keep the ball and play rugby! The message is simple from France coach Philippe Saint-Andre to his team for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand.

While not quite calling for throwing caution to the wind, it is however a demand for more invention and doing the basics more accurately.

Just a week after a comprehensive 24-9 defeat by Ireland, Saint-Andre insisted his team were capable of imposing their own game on the defending champions and world number one ranked side.

Game management will, however, have to change from the one employed against the Irish, who dominated 97 percent of possession and 93 percent of territory as they closed down the final 10 minutes.

With that in mind up steps Morgan Parra, a favourite of Saint-Andre's predecessor Marc Lievremont, but very much second choice behind Sebastien Tillous-Borde for Saint-Andre.

"If you look at New Zealand playing, it will be complicated," Saint-Andre admitted.

"We'll have to take into our hands our own destiny, to impose our game.

"If we want to beat New Zealand, we will have to play the French way."

What that way is no one is quite certain of. And given the chopping and changing in selection over the last four years, it's not clear if Saint-Andre is sure.

"We're getting ready for a massive battle. We know we'll have to improve our up-front game and take more individual initiatives."

Saint-Andre has opted to try to add a more dynamic option to his side, with the experienced Parra a proven thorn for many sides. He can at times be too provocative with opponents and referees however.

Tillous-Borde is dropped from the match-day 23, with South African-born Rory Kockott preferred on the bench, another "match-winner", according to Saint-Andre.

"It hasn't been a mistake," the coach insisted when asked whether he had been wrong to place his long-time trust in Tillous-Borde, the Toulon player having started 10 of the last 13 games.

Parra, a regular in the France side beaten by the All Blacks in the 2011 World Cup final, "is a very strong competitor, he's having a great World Cup and I've decided to start him because we all know his leadership qualities when it comes to the forwards".

Another back to be sacrificed is Mathieu Bastareaud, relegated to the bench with Racing 92's Alexandre Dumoulin coming in to partner Wesley Fofana in midfield.

Bastareaud's limited game, based around the crash ball and seemingly having nothing to do with deft hands, was rubbed raw by an abrasive Irish defence.

"Alexandre is a player who is really very capable of keeping the ball alive. He's also well capable of positioning himself appropriately and defending very well," said Saint-Andre.

With Bastareaud's deficiencies laid bare by Ireland, Saint-Andre has drafted in another naturalised Frenchman in South African openside flanker Bernard Le Roux.

Up against a backrow featuring All Black skipper Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read, Le Roux will have his work cut out in the loose.

Saint-Andre will be hoping Le Roux's superior physique will help the French team at ruck time.

"I expect him to bring greater impact and be the first player clearing out rucks out so we can keep the ball," he said.

Le Roux will also cover second row, Alexandre Flanquart dropped to accommodate Chouly and a second flanker in Yannick Nyanga on the bench.

"We weren't happy with our replacements against Ireland, they didn't come on an perform," Saint-Andre said.

Dubbing the quarter-final an "exceptional event", Saint-Andre said: "It's to play in games like this that we've been training since childhood.

"New Zealand never lose but sometimes you manage to beat them!

"If there's not an uprising for this match, you must change sport," the coach said in a warning to his players.

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