Friday 23 March 2018

Saint-Andre weighs up options as Les Bleus look to raise standards

Hugh Farrelly

AFTER taking an extra day to assess his options, France coach Philippe Saint-Andre is ready to rotate his team for Sunday's rescheduled Six Nations showdown with Ireland in Paris.

Although France won their second match in succession with a 23-17 triumph at Murrayfield last Sunday, Saint-Andre is unhappy with several aspects of the performance and delayed his team announcement by 24 hours to monitor his players and further analyse Ireland's 42-10 victory over the Italians.

The French coach is particularly concerned with the fact his side missed 14 tackles and allowed the Scots to cross for two tries and says he is open to switching up his side, given the exacting schedule of four games on successive weekends following the postponed clash with Ireland on February 11.

"We missed too many tackles against Scotland," said Saint-Andre. "At international level you cannot allow your opponents to break through a dozen times and, essentially, they were individual errors.

"Even though we only gave away five penalties and three free-kicks, those could have been avoided, it is something we will look at. We must also look to make better use of our kicking game."

Saint-Andre is also seeking an improvement in France's breakdown work against the Irish after Scottish flankers John Barclay and Ross Rennie caused his team consistent difficulties on the ground.

"We recovered 13 balls in total but we lost 16 -- once again, it is too much," said Saint-Andre. "It is hard going into another game straight away. These are physical matches and we need time to recover. Just as we did against Italy, we will seek a way to change things during the week to properly prepare for the Irish and remedy these problems."

With Maxime Medard ruled out with knee ligament damage, Saint-Andre has the option of slotting in his vastly experienced Toulouse team-mate Clement Poitrenaud at full-back. The 29-year-old has won 44 caps for France and has played Ireland five times in the Six Nations going back to 2003, with three wins and two defeats.

The alternative would be to bring Maxime Mermoz into the side and either start him at 15 or switch Aurelien Rougerie to the back.

However, the likelihood is France will go with specialist Poitrenaud, given Saint-Andre's explanation as to why he did not bring Toulon's Alexis Palisson into the squad instead of the Toulouse No 15.

"Palisson does not play full-back with his club," said Saint-Andre. "We do not need a winger who can play full-back but a real No 15."

Elsewhere, Luis Picamoles could come under pressure from Julien Bonnaire in the back-row after failing to hit the standards against Scotland that he set in the opening clash with Italy.

The No 8 was substituted after 53 minutes last weekend and with Imanol Harinordoquy capable of switching over from flanker, Saint-Andre may opt for Bonnaire's line-out presence from the start.

Lionel Nallet's experience could also earn the former French captain a starting place in the second-row, while William Servat could come in at hooker for Dimitri Szarzewski, who struggled at Murrayfield. Props Jean-Baptiste Poux and Nicolas Mas are likely to retain their places after France's powerful scrummaging display against the Scots.

Meanwhile, Scotland wing Rory Lamont is facing three to four months of rehabilitation after undergoing surgery on his broken leg.

Lamont sustained a fractured fibula in Sunday's defeat to France at Murrayfield and was subsequently operated on at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Scotland team doctor James Robson said: "Rory is comfortable. His convalescence will get under way at once. Injuries of this nature require typically three to four months of rehabilitation."

Glasgow full-back Lamont (29) was replaced after just 30 minutes. He had landed awkwardly after contesting a restart and required lengthy treatment on the pitch.

Irish Independent

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