Paris - "We've
pretty much hit bottom," French centre Mathieu Bastareaud said
after Les Bleus ended their autumn internationals with a 23-23 draw
It could have been worse - Japan would have won Saturday's match if Yu Tamura had not missed a kick in the 73rd minute.
"We should have lost. We were lucky that they missed that conversion
from pretty much in front of the posts," Bastareaud said, with the jeers
of fans at the U Arena in the Paris suburbs still ringing in his ears.
"It feels bad to be whistled in our own stadium, but that's how it is."
France have lost to New Zealand before going down 18-17 to South
Africa. Then came Saturday's near-disaster against the fast-improving
Japanese, who will host the 2019 World Cup.
Bastareaud's team-mates agreed, while struggling to express their feelings.
"I don't know what to say anymore," said prop Rabah Slimani.
"It's hard to find words," said Louis Picamoles, the veteran No 8,
adding that France had not played at an international level "in
execution or rapidity."
France's poor results have put veteran head coach Guy Noves under pressure.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Noves said after the match. "I
have the impression that we have really lost confidence which is having a
huge impact on our play."
Yet Noves insisted that he could see potential.
"At the level of results the balance sheet is not positive but in
terms of evaluating players there are still things we can take away.
Some of the players showed an interesting level of play, other less so."
"It's been a complicated November, trying to carry on in a normal
manner under intense pressure from certain people which helped make the
players a little pensive. That led to very poor displays like this
Bastareaud said the players "will go back to our clubs and try to
change our thinking because these autumn internationals are very
difficult to take for everyone.
"We cannot do worse than we are doing," the 29-year-old Toulon player said.
"We need to rediscover some of the confidence which this team has completely lost."
France begins its Six Nations campaign against Ireland on February 3.