France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre turns attention to Ireland clash
France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre turned his focus to Ireland and finishing top of World Cup Pool D after Thursday night's 41-18 victory over Canada in Milton Keynes.
Les Bleus combined flair and force to qualify for the knockout stages, with the October 11 clash with Ireland likely to determine who tops the group and claims a more favourable quarter-final draw by avoiding holders New Zealand. Ireland play Italy on Sunday.
"We reached our first objective: three wins, 14 points from three matches and we're qualified for the quarter-finals," Saint-Andre said.
"Now we have to prepare for the match against Ireland so we do our utmost to finish first in the pool."
Enigmatic fly-half Frederic Michalak was in majestic form, creating one score for Wesley Fofana, who fluffed another after some artistry from his team-mate.
Hooker Guilhem Guirado, tighthead prop Rabah Slimani and lock Pascal Pape scored close-range tries and debutant wing Remy Grosso added a fifth score.
Asked about Michalak's contribution, which included 14 points off the kicking tee, Saint-Andre said: "A lot of people were surprised why I picked him. Against England, against Scotland (in the World Cup warm-ups), against Italy for the first game of the World Cup (and) today he showed he's a class player."
It was not always straightforward for Les Bleus as tries from DTH van der Merwe and Aaron Carpenter drew the Canucks within six points early in the second half.
Saint-Andre said: "We had a first half-hour that was of great quality.
"For a few minutes we had a little bit less intensity and we were in difficulty."
But there was to be no repeat of Canada's solitary win over France, 21 years ago, at the ninth attempt.
"They were very good, very daring," Saint-Andre added of Canada, whose team manager Gareth Rees went a step further.
Rees roared: "Canada's back."
The former Wasps back added: "We'd like to have more fixtures like this, playing against top nations.
"Hopefully that sends a very clear message. We'd love to get more top-level matches.
"I believe they can put on a show wherever they go and can put bums on seats."
The Canucks play Romania in Leicester next Tuesday seeking to sign off from the tournament with a win.
Canada head coach Kieran Crowley bemoaned the fixture schedule which has tested his side's powers of recovery.
"This was our second game in five days," Crowley said.
"Three games in 11 days. You wouldn't ask France or Ireland to do that. But we've got to do it.
"This is the hand we've been dealt, but that's what we're going to have to do."
Crowley joked "there might be a plane load of players coming over from Canada" after four or five significant injuries.
"When you play Test matches back to back you're always going to have a bit of attrition. Our medical department will be pretty busy," he added.