Friday 24 November 2017

Philippe Saint-Andre: Ireland may be favourites but four teams can lift Six Nations crown

France's head coach Philippe Saint Andre
France's head coach Philippe Saint Andre

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre insists his side are looking to win the RBS 6 Nations despite coming into the tournament as outsiders.

Les Bleus won a grand slam as recently as 2010, but since Saint-Andre's first tournament in 2012 they have finished fourth twice and in 2013 suffered the humiliation of claiming the wooden spoon.

Ireland head into this year's edition as favourites to defend their crown but, ahead of Saturday's opener against Scotland, Saint-Andre is ignoring the critics who appear to have written his team off.

"A tournament is sometimes nothing like last year," he told a press conference shown on www.ffr.fr. "We want to win this year.

"The Irish are favourites, but they are one of four nations capable of winning this tournament in 2015."

Saint-Andre's assertion that four teams are in the frame to win the new-look trophy seems to dismiss the chances of Saturday's opponents as well as those of Italy, who have defeated the French in two of the last four years.

The Scots have beaten France just once since since the turn of the century but two recent victories over Argentina and a narrow loss to New Zealand suggest they are making progress under new coach Vern Cotter, who will be leading the team into the Six Nations for the first time.

Saint-Andre has seen Cotter's exploits at close hand, with the Kiwi having spent eight successful years at Clermont before taking over at Murrayfield, and is wary of the threat posed in Paris this weekend.

"Scotland had a very good tour in November, notably beating Argentina," he said. "They nearly beat New Zealand before bowing in the last 10 minutes.

"With Glasgow and Edinburgh, they have a good generation of players and their results are good in the European Cup.

"Vern Cotter is known and has experience of French rugby. He will come with great ambition but I can assure you we also have tremendous ambition."

Scrum-half Rory Kockott will make his first start at the Stade de France after getting the nod ahead of Morgan Parra to combine with Camille Lopez in the half-backs.

The South Africa-born player, who earned three caps off the bench in the autumn internationals, comes in for the injured Sebastien Tillous-Borde.

"He is a competitor at heart," Saint-Andre said. "He is very strong in his duels, offensively and defensively.

"On the collective organisation, he had the entire month of November to really integrate himself.

"He and Camille will manage the game."

Meanwhile, Les Bleus will break with tradition by wearing a red shirt when they kick off on Saturday.

The Twitter accounts of the FFR and kit manufacturer Adidas both published pictures of the new kit, which will feature blue shorts and red socks.

France have played twice in red before, securing victories over Australia in 1958 and Scotland in 1959, and the new shirt will act as the change strip through to the World Cup this autumn.

They have traditionally turned out in the colours of the Tricolore with blue shirts, white shorts and red socks with a white change kit.

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