Saint-Andre keen to rediscover Argentine rhythms
MARCOUSSIS, France (AFP) –
France take on Australia on Saturday with just one week of preparation but including the vital backbone of the team that shone in their last outing against Argentina.
A vital factor, according to coach Philippe Saint-Andre, for a French team who have been focusing on the basics ahead of what promises to be a tough encounter with the Wallabies.
“We’ll try to play, not only to destroy!” promised Saint-Andre, known as a devastingly pacy winger for France in his playing days.
“But the toughest thing we’ve had to overcome (in such a short preparation time) is to find a cohesive way of playing, notably in attack.
“When you have seven days to prepare, you firstly try to work on the set-piece because you need to win your own ball, then you try to be good defensively and after try to put together a cohesive attacking game.
“It’s for that reason that we have 10 players from our last Test who start on Saturday, with the backbone of 2-8-9-10-15, to try to re-find the passages of play we unearthed in Argentina.”
Mercurial Toulon playmaker Frederic Michalak and Maxime Machenaud, winning his second cap, start at half-back after leading France to a 59-10 rout of the Argentinians in the summer.
It means a strong bench with the influential Morgan Parra, the accomplished Clermont scrum-half and goal kicker, and fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc undoubtedly assured of valuable roles in the second half.
That is something not lost on Saint-Andre.
“In the Rugby Championship, the Australians were behind against Argentina and South Africa (before going on to win) and it’s between 60 and 80 minutes that they really made teams suffer by their varied game and speedy execution,” he said.
“It’ll really be vital from the 55th minute. If we want to beat Australia, it will be done by 23 players, not 15.”
That assumption was given credence by the dreadful wilting of France against Australia the last time the two sides met in 2010 (albeit under a different coach, Marc Lievremont).
The Wallabies eventually ran out 59-16 winners despite the French leading 16-13 after 46 minutes. The home players left the field to a chorus of booing and whistles.
Saint-Andre was in no doubt over what tactics Australia might employ.
“What’s interesting is that they’ve decided to go with six forwards and two backs on the bench,” the former Sale, Gloucester and Toulon coach said.
“They really want to try to play a power-based game, as during their last matches where they’ve relied a lot on a forwards-based gameplan, with numerous pick-and-go’s, before using the quality of their backline.
“They’ve just played 11 Tests together, they’re a real unit, and are used to playing alongside each other.
“We know from experience that we mustn’t let up for one single minute because if you ever fail to kill time and space for them, they’re capable of playing their own brand of rugby.
“It’s up to us to us to find the ingredients to undo them and allow us play to our strong points.”