Frederic Michalak was picked to inspire France to new heights at the Rugby World Cup, but Sunday's 24-9 defeat by Ireland suggested Philippe Saint-Andre got it wrong by placing so much trust in the mercurial out-half.
Michalak, who made an unremarkable but solid start to the tournament, failed with an early penalty and missed a tackle which led to Ireland's first try and he never got the French going in a disappointing Pool D decider for Les Bleus.
Saint-Andre, however, refused to blame the Toulon man who has won 76 caps.
"It happens," the France coach told a news conference.
"There was also [a Scott Spedding] penalty that smashed the post early on."
Michalak, 32, was replaced in the 55th minute by Remi Tales, when a creative player like Francois Trinh-Duc, who was omitted from the squad, would have been useful to unsettle the Irish.
Michalak was sporting a bandage on his right hand after the match but for Saint-Andre the problems lay elsewhere.
"The only thing that is worrying is that in the last 20 minutes, we made too many errors offensively and we conceded a lot of penalties," he said.
Michalak and scrum-half Sebastien Tillous-Borde, however, never created space for their team-mates and Les Bleus were forced to defend for much of the game.
"We were bad at recycling the ball, they were good in that department," Tillous-Borde told reporters.
"From there, it was complicated. Against Canada we were good at recycling the ball, but today we were catastrophic.
"If we're not better in that area against the Blacks we won't win the match."
France's defeat left them in second place in Pool D and sent them into a quarter-final clash with holders New Zealand on Saturday.
France lost to the All Blacks 8-7 in the 2011 World Cup final, and beat them 20-18 in the quarter-finals in 2007, when Michalak came on as a late substitute.
That day in Cardiff, he set up the try which led to France's upset win, one of several Les Bleus have pulled off against the All Blacks.
"We have to recover and get ready for a huge, huge game," said Saint Andre, who could again be tempted to change his halfbacks having never found the right combination.
Tillous-Borde and Michalak were his 17th different starting pairing in four years in charge.