France must raise standards against Ireland, says coach Philippe Saint-Andre
PHILIPPE Saiint-Andre may have expressed himself happy enough with his team's 23-17 win over Scotland immediately after the final whistle at Murrayfield on Sunday but after studying the game closely on video yesterday the French coach was much less impressed and quickly passed that message onto his squad.
In particular Saint Andre was distinctly unimpressed with a sub-par opening 20 minutes when they singularly failed to match Scotland's intensity and made far too many basic mismates.
In no time France found themselves 10-0 and against a more confident side than Scotland are at present may have leaked even more points.
Saint-Andre is determined that France get out of the blocks much quicker against Ireland in Paris on Sunday in the rearranged game from February 10 when the frosty Stade de France pitch was deemed unplayable just minutes before kick-off.
"After a match when you win, you accentuate the positive," says Saint-Andre."However, after you watch the video and you resume preparing for the next game, you see how imperative it is to improve on the things that didn't function. In the Scottish game we were too tame at the beginning, we lost too many balls in the rucks, especially in the first half-hour, and missedtoo many tackles. These are the main areas we will work on this week.
"What we really need to change is that we have to hit the ground running from the kick-off and not sleepwalk through the opening 20 minutes like we did against Italy and Scotland. If we do that against the Irish, it will not go well for us at the Stade de France."
"Of course as a coach when you wake up and you have won everything is a lot better. Afterwards we know that we have played two games and we know that we still have to move up to a very high level of play against teams of a much better calibre than Scotland or Italy.
"We are of course happy to win, happy to have been able to come back from 10-0 down, and happy with the scrum which was a major positive.
But we still have many things to improve. I repeat that defensively we missed too many tackles and at international level that is unforgivable."
Saint-Andre – a youthful 44 but a vastly experienced coach at Gloucester, Sale, Bourgoin and Toulon – also conceded that too much was being asked of the French players in staying fit and on their best form because of the amount of rugby they played in comparison to other countries.
"Yes I am concerned because I don't think that the players can play 40 matches like they are doing this year, it is impossible. When one sees the required intensity in order to play at this level when the ball is in play like it was against Scotland for 40-50 minutes ... then it is vital to have a huge swathe of time to prepare, periods where they can recuperate and not play and then competition time.
"This is really sport of a very very high level. It is also for this reason that so many people come to watch the matches. I think it is a superb spectacle, when the ball is in play permanently. For that, one has to have a huge group of players to draw on, one has to have athletes. We have them but we have to unearth some more."