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Saint-Andre makes no excuses

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has refused to use a congested domestic calendar as an excuse for Les Bleus' lamentable RBS 6 Nations campaign.

Saint-Andre's team will head to Twickenham and an appointment with England later this month after losing their opening two Five or Six Nations games for the first time since 1982. Wales' 16-6 success in Paris followed a 23-18 defeat in Italy six days previously, and the wooden spoon has now become a distinct possibility for the pre-tournament favourites.

France, flat and lethargic for much of the Six Nations so far, have seen their top players regularly involved in a packed domestic schedule, with those club demands clearly affecting what Saint-Andre is able to do at Test level. But he said: "There should be no excuses."

"We are in a magical (Six Nations) competition. It is what you dream about being involved in as a player, and it is why I wanted to play rugby. The simple fact is that the Welsh were more reactive, more aggressive and they outnumbered us two to one when it came to tackling our player with the ball.

"They stopped us from liberating the ball, something we were very good at doing back in November (when France won all three Tests, including against Australia and Argentina). The calendar is due to be discussed in June by the league, the (French) federation and the players, and I hope everybody shoulders their responsibilities."

Of more pressing concern for Saint-Andre is how he lifts a squad suffering from battered morale to tackle England and Ireland in their respective back-yards.

"We can't win the title, but we can win respect," he added. "We have to accept the Welsh came to Paris on an eight-game losing run and won, and we give them credit for that.

"We had two clear chances to score, and we didn't take them. It is a difficult time we are going through at the moment, but we have to work harder and lift ourselves. We will have to perform a smash and grab raid at Twickenham in a fortnight.

"We were flying in November, but now it's very tough. We are bottom of the table, but we have to recover our precision and our spirit and not give up."

And asked specifically about England's sizeable challenge, Saint-Andre said: "We must not be scared. It's a fantastic challenge, and while we may not be sure of ourselves, we have to fight and show the desire to win. Rugby can always produce surprises, and we must go there with our heads held high."


From Belfast Telegraph