Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Winning it ugly? That's fine by us, says Saint-Andre

Maxime Medard is back in the French line-up

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

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 straightaway."

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 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."

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."

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 ignominy of the Wooden Spoon.

The French pack have Saint-Andre's full support, and the front eight will be unchanged on Saturday, but Saint-Andre 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 gave little away onhis thinking.

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

On his latest half-back combination, Saint-Andre said of Michalak and Parra: "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."

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