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Player influx concerns Saint-Andre

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre insists the influx of overseas players into the Top 14 is harming the national team.

Saint-Andre names tighthead prop, fly-half and wing as the positions most badly affected by the large number of foreign stars competing in the French domestic league.

Les Bleus will also enter the 2014 RBS 6 Nations, which opens against England in Paris on February 1, without a single player who is the recognised first-choice goalkicker at their club.

With the Top 14 having agreed a new TV deal with Canal+ worth £60million, the number of non-French qualified players filling key positions could escalate.

Having served as head coach at Toulon, the biggest spenders of all, Saint-Andre has a perspective on club and national interests.

"I worked for Toulon and the chairman is very ambitious. He said to me 'I want to win very quickly'. So I said 'OK, we'll sign Matt Giteau and Bakkies Botha'," Saint-Andre said.

"When you sign this type of player, you don't need five years before you get success. I worked in the Top 14, so I understand the pressures the coaches are under.

"But talented young French players are having to play in the second division to get any game time. The system needs to be improved.

"Toulon are a fantastic team and I'm very happy they qualified for the Heineken Cup, but in their last three games they only had three French players in their starting XV.

"The Top 14 is a big business and a big economy in world rugby. The new TV deal means more money and more power.

"It's unbelievable but 70 per cent of the wings in the Top 14 are from Tonga, Fiji or New Zealand.

"We are in difficulty. The biggest problem is our kicker. None of our players are first choice kickers at their clubs.

"Maxime Machenaud is our kicker but is third choice for Racing Metro. This situation is a problem."

France finished the 2013 Six Nations with the wooden spoon, but following a number of retirements after the 2011 World Cup, Saint-Andre is finally seeing progress.

They face England with the novelty of having been given a two-week break before the Six Nations as part of a new arrangement between the national team and the clubs.

"Last year was a tough year for us, but it was a learning curve because we had a very young squad," Saint-Andre said.

"This is a very big year for us. We don't start with the starter but with the 'Rosbif', so with the main course!

"It's always a huge game against England and the atmosphere will be special.

"The Six Nations is a fantastic event, especially when France play against England.

"Some people don't have a clue about rugby, but each year they sit in front of the TV to watch France against England. It's about history."


From Belfast Telegraph