Saint-Andre a readymade 'scapegoat'

Fri, 14 Mar 2014 12:31
Large philippesaint andre3

Coach Philippe Saint-Andre volunteered to be the scapegoat for France's much criticized performances.

Coach Philippe Saint-Andre volunteered to be the scapegoat for France's much criticized performances, as he brought back powerhouse Louis Picamoles for the Six Nations decider against Ireland.

France faced a torrent of criticism following their insipid 19-17 win over Scotland last weekend, on the back of a limp effort in losing 6-27 in Wales two weeks earlier.

"There is frustration over the last match," acknowledged the coach, who made four changes for the team to play Saturday.

But Saint-Andre said the critics should halt their attacks on his players.

"What happens on the outside is not important. If I have to be the scapegoat, then no problem. But let the players do their work," he said, before reminding everyone that he does not have a full-strength side to pick from.

"When you realise how many important players are out injured, there are six, seven, eight. and yet we still see this group improving, picking themselves up and still being in a position to win the Six Nations.

"We're still dreaming about winning, about scoring 15 tries and that everyone's in a dream.

"But seriously, we're doing a lot better than last year at this point. Then we had three defeats and a draw, now we have three wins."

Saint-Andre has recalled Picamoles, who was left out last weekend as punishment for having sarcastically applauded referee Alain Rolland after being sent to the sin-bin against Wales in Cardiff.

Despite the predictable nature of Picamoles's return, Saint-Andre sprang a surprise by making him blindside flank, leaving Damien Chouly at No.8 for the second match in a row, although the coach said there could be some "switching" of positions during the game.

Saint-Andre also brought back his preferred flyhalf Remi Tales in place of Stade Francais youngster Jules Plisson, who struggled against Scotland.

Saint-Andre, though, insisted it was merely a tactical decision based on the Castres No.10's better defence.

"It's not a punishment [against Plisson], it's a strategic decision," said Saint-Andre.

The other main change was the decision to give teenage centre Gael Fickou only his second start in a France shirt.

The 19-year-old Toulouse back scored the dramatic late try that beat England in France's opening Six Nations clash, just minutes after entering the fray.

And Saint Andre is banking on his talent alongside Mathieu Bastareaud, with usual first choice Wesley Fofana still out injured.

"He is in form, he is fast," said Saint Andre. "We need to see his talent on show from the start."

As a consequence, Maxime Mermoz drops to the bench.

Plisson misses out altogether with Saint-Andre opting for just two backs on the bench - the second being scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain - alongside six forwards, just as he did against England.

The final change sees Dimitri Szarzewski coming back as hooker in place of Brice Mach.

Szarzewski was injured for the Scotland game in Edinburgh and his return is no surprise as Saint-Andre looks to inject some power back into a pack that under-performed at Murrayfield.

Ireland, England and France are level on points but such is the chasm in points difference between the teams, Les Bleus know that even if they beat the Irish, they still need Italy to do them a favour against England to come away with the championship crown.

AFP

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Thu, 23 February 2017
Rebels v Blues 08h45 Melbourne
Fri, 24 February 2017
Highlanders v Chiefs 06h35 Dunedin
Reds v Sharks 09h00 Brisbane
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers 17h45 Twickenham Stoop
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 19h05 Myreside
Dragons v Leinster 19h30 Rodney Parade
Munster v Scarlets 19h35 Thomond Park
Sat, 25 February 2017
Sunwolves v Hurricanes 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Brumbies 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Force 08h45 Allianz Park
Saracens v Sale Sharks 12h45 Allianz Park
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons 13h00 Sandy Park
Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Franklin's Gardens
Cheetahs v Lions 13h05 Bloemfontein
Scotland v Wales 14h25 BT Murrayfield
Kings v Jaguares 15h15 Port Elizabeth
Ireland v France 16h50 Aviva Stadium
Stormers v Bulls 17h30 Cape Town
Sun, 26 February 2017
Bristol v Bath 11h00 Ashton Gate
Treviso v Connacht 12h30 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Wasps v Gloucester 12h30 Ricoh Arena
Zebre v Ulster 12h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 13h05 Liberty Stadium
England v Italy 15h00 Twickenham Stadium
Mon, 27 February 2017
UCT-Ikeys v Maties 14h45 Cape Town
Rhodes v Fort Hare 16h30 Grahamstown
CUT-Ixias v UJ 16h30 Bloemfontein
UWC v TUT 16h30 Cape Town
UP-Tuks v Wits 16h30 Pretoria
CPUT v UKZN-Impi 16h30 Cape Town
Shimlas v NWU-Pukke 17h00 Bloemfontein
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
England 2 2 0 0 8
Ireland 2 1 0 1 6
Wales 2 1 0 1 5
France 2 1 0 1 5
Scotland 2 1 0 1 5
Italy 2 0 0 2 0