France rugby coach Saint-Andre 'not leaving'
DUBLIN (AFP) –
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre came out fighting on Sunday insisting that despite a dreadful Six Nations campaign, he was staying on as originally planned untill the 2015 World Cup.
The 45-year-old, who replaced Marc Lievremont after the 2011 World Cup, defended his record saying that it was a work in progress.
Saint-Andre was speaking the day after his side had earned their first point of the tournament fighting back from a 13-3 half-time deficit to draw 13-13 with Ireland.
The draw, however, sees the French needing realistically to beat Scotland at home in their final match next Saturday – a draw could suffice depending on other results – to avoid finishing bottom of the table for the first time since 1999.
Despite this and the fact that France under Saint-Andre are on a seven match winless run in the Six Nations, equalling the record of their 1926-27 predecessors, the former France captain remained defiant.
He was especially incensed by remarks he made on Thursday and which had been taken out of context to imply that he would step down if they lost to Ireland.
“I will of course as is my nature assume total responsibility and take the blame for the campaign,” he said.
“However, I am here till 2015 and I will not be leaving, quite the contrary.
“I would ask of you not to take three words from a sentence and give them a meaning that is not intended.
“The Federation and the committee director gave us a target to prepare for 2015. We will continue to work towards that objective.
“I take the responsibility because I have always done that, I have never tried to shift it on to others in my career.
“Rugby at the highest level is to be a competitor. The more difficult it is the more I like it.
Saint-Andre, who had set France’s target at the outset of the tournament to better their fourth placed finish under him last year, also mounted a sterling defence of his players.
“You cannot murder the players now when in November, you made them out to be better than they were,” he said.
“However, even in the worst case scenario they are not as bad as people are saying they are.
“We were always very restrained about where we were, we knew that the margin between victory and defeat is very narrow.”
Saint-Andre, who said the fact only seven players remained from the 2011 World Cup squad illustrated how much work there was to be done on honing the present squad into winners, also took issue with former France coach Bernard Laporte.
Laporte, who succeeded Saint-Andre as head coach of Toulon, has been critical of the France coach in the past fortnight.
Laporte said Saint-Andre’s complaint of there being too many non French players in key roles at the clubs – especially at fly-half – was undermined as it was he who had brought players such as former England great Jonny Wilkinson to Toulon.
“My policy having been France captain (34 times in his 69 tests) and played for France has been to never criticise the French team,” he said referring to his having avoided comment during Laporte’s spell in charge from 1999-2007.
“Others obviously have different principles. I have certainly learnt over this Six Nations who my real friends are.”
Saint-Andre said he hoped at least to bow out with a win against Scotland.
“I want us to play like we did in the last 40 minutes against Ireland and to give the French fans at home something to smile about,” he said.