Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Departing France coach Philippe Saint-Andre calls for change

Outgoing France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has warned French rugby must change if the national team is to be successful again.

Saint-Andre's four-year reign as France coach ended in humiliating fashion on Saturday night as New Zealand romped to the biggest-ever World Cup quarter-final victory with a 62-13 triumph in Cardiff.

The former Gloucester and Sale Sharks coach was booed by angry Les Bleus fans during his post-match television interview but he insisted problems run deep in French rugby and that structural changes are necessary for France to flourish.

Toulouse coach Guy Noves will take charge of France from next month but Saint-Andre said his successor will encounter the same difficulties which he believes have blighted his tenure.

"We need to realise at a high level that French rugby needs to bring something different to its organisation," Saint-Andre said.

"It's not my job to tell them (French Rugby Federation) what to do, that is their job.

"But we are in the same stage as English soccer.

"Our players play 40 games a year but New Zealand players play 25 games a year.

"That's not rugby, we are in a box."

However, Saint-Andre's reign seems certain to be recalled with little enthusiasm by French fans in the years to come.

The 48-year-old presided over four Six Nations campaigns with France finishing fourth on three occasions and ending up with the wooden spoon in 2013, the first time they had finished last in the competition since 1999.

If his time at the helm was all about building towards the 2015 World Cup and impressing at the tournament, then that was dismantled in 80 embarrassing minutes at the Millennium Stadium.

The All Blacks ran riot with nine tries to exorcise the demons of their 2007 quarter-final defeat to France at the same venue and set-up a semi-final showdown with South Africa.

"It was very interesting," Saint-Andre said of his time in charge of the France team.

"I've had a very exciting four years, it has been unbelievable.

"It is disappointing, but when you've lost by 60 points in a quarter-final all you can say is congratulations to New Zealand. They deserve it.

"I just want to say thank you to my players and staff. We've worked very hard since July 5 and tried to give everything, but it was not enough.

"I have a lot of young players and Morgan Parra and Frederic Michalak were the only backs who had played in the World Cup before.

"They learn a lot about the World Cup and that is important for the future of the French team."

France's build-up to the quarter-final was dominated by talk of rebellion and revolt in the camp with the players said to be so disaffected by Saint-Andre that it was reported they had taken over selection and coaching ahead of the game.

Captain Thierry Dusautoir dismissed those tales of mutiny on the eve of the match and Saint-Andre branded the story as "gossip".

"It was not true," Saint-Andre said. "It was gossip. Did you see the revolt today?

"The players gave everything but we came up against a side who are one of the best teams in the world.

"We know we could have done better and put pressure on New Zealand and we had a penalty to make it 10-9.

"But after that New Zealand were confident and when they are a lot of points in front they are the Brazilians of rugby.

"They do some fantastic stuff, they are quick and skilful and showed why they won the World Cup four years ago."


From Belfast Telegraph