/ Six Nations 2014

France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre: Points not performance required against Ireland

Updated: Thursday, 07 Mar 2013 15:40 | Comments

The teams played out a 17-17 draw last season
The teams played out a 17-17 draw last season

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France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre will abandon tradition and gladly settle for the most tedious of victories against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Saint-Andre has seen enough Gallic swagger from his team for this RBS 6 Nations championship, and now he wants the under-achieving players to show they can grind out a result.

Three defeats from three outings have cooled Saint-Andre's interest in encouraging flamboyant rugby.

And so when France run out at the Aviva Stadium this weekend it will be with an approach befitting of the reality of their situation. Or so the theory goes.

"We need to find an 80-minute performance. At the moment we aren't doing that," Saint-Andre said.

"The role of the France team is to win and win in style. But right now, in our situation, if we could sign for a 3-0 win we'd sign straight away."

"If we could sign for a 3-0 win we'd sign straight away" - Philippe Saint-Andre

He added: "We believe in the team. It's in a difficult moment and we're going to see the true face of this team.

"It's up to us to raise our heads. We've had a good week of training and a good session this morning.

"We have to force our destiny, we have missed a lot of realism in the first three matches. We have to score when we're on top and let in as few as possible when we're under pressure. We have to be better defensively."

He added: "We need to win the match in Ireland with lots of appetite, lots of ambition, and above all a performance of a very high level."

Ireland coach Declan Kidney would surely empathise with the surprising French plight, given his team are also going through a difficult time.

Pressure is mounting on Kidney's shoulders following a baffling loss at Murrayfield last time out, when Ireland dominated everything but the scoreboard.

As Saint-Andre pointed out: "The Irish are frustrated too after the defeat in Scotland when they had 80 per cent of possession."

Saint-Andre has shaken up his back division with three changes for Saturday's match.

After defeats to Italy, Wales and England, France are bidding to regain some pride over their remaining matches against the Irish and Scotland.

They are also desperate to avoid the Wooden Spoon.

The French pack have Saint-Andre's full support, and the front eight will be unchanged on Saturday, but Saint-Andre today decided change was required behind the scrum.

Into the starting line-up come centre Florian Fritz, wing Maxime Medard and fly-half Frederic Michalak, with Benjamin Fall, Mathieu Bastareaud and Francois Trinh-Duc dropping out, the latter two featuring among the replacements.

Medard comes in from the cold after returning to action for Toulouse, having suffered a serious knee ligament injury during last year's Six Nations clash with Scotland that ruled him out of the autumn Tests.

Michalak and Morgan Parra will form the third half-back partnership France have deployed in this year's championship.

Amid speculation Trinh-Duc was effectively being made a scapegoat for the loss in London, when he admitted to missing a host of tackles, Saint-Andre moved to at least offer a partial defence of the Montpellier number 10.

"I have spoken with Francois and he knows why (he has been left out)," Saint-Andre said. "I prefer to explain these things in private.

"I think I've read that he wasn't happy with his defensive performance, and Frederic had been excellent in November. It's not a punishment."

Further explaining the latest half-back combination, Saint-Andre said of Michalak and Parra: "They have already played together against Samoa in November.

"For the Ireland match, we wanted to have two goal-kickers. Fred will be the number one kicker, Morgan will take the kicks from further away because he has five to 10 metres more in his legs.

"But we are still in a construction phase and it isn't extraordinary for us to look to test the half-back axis."

Scrum-half Maxime Machenaud and fly-half Trinh-Duc will be raring to be involved off the bench, with Saint-Andre pointing out they remain firmly in his half-back plans.

"For nine matches, we have been using the same four players," he said.

"In November we used the Machenaud-Michalak combination a lot. Maxime (Machenaud) has played a lot in recent months, he is young and he is discovering the highest level. Morgan has played excellent matches for France and for Clermont."

Saint-Andre said that putting versatile back Medard on the wing was a sensible step, given the options at his disposal.

"Maxime will give us his left foot," he said. "He will alternate between the wing and full-back according to our needs.

"But I would rather he starts on the wing because it's in that position that he has played most often since his return from injury. And Yoann Huget has been very satisfactory at full-back, notably in defence on the high balls."

Michalak, whose selection caught some by surprise, has delighted Saint-Andre in training, with the former France wing saying: "This week with his attitude and his energy - he's shown he's fresh - it's natural he should start on Saturday."

Live RBS 6 Nations coverage on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only) from 2pm on Saturday 9 March (Ireland v France 5pm) and 2.30pm on Sunday 10 March.

Live radio coverage of Ireland v France on Saturday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide) from 2pm.

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