France want to end their inconsistent form

France coach Marc Lievremont hopes a third straight win in the Six Nations against Wales will help the French shake off their tag as a talented, yet inconsistent, team.

“The Anglo-Saxons make fun of us for it,” Lievremont said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

“But they like the fact the French have this inconsistency, that they are capable of incredible performances but can also be completely lousy.”

The players will gain huge confidence if they beat Wales in Cardiff on Friday. It would put France in pole position to win the Grand Slam after beating Scotland 18-9 and Ireland 33-10, and with home games to follow against Italy and England.

“The Ireland result was a great one because we felt that they had never had such a strong team to come and win in Paris,” Lievremont said about beating the defending Grand Slam champions two weeks ago.

The stuttering performance at Murrayfield – France won with two Mathieu Bastareaud tries but lacked invention in the last 30 minutes – contrasted sharply with the dynamic showing against Ireland.

“There was a big upsurge in quality after the Scotland match,” Lievremont said.

The coach, who admits that sometimes even he doesn’t know what to expect of his team, has not won three straight games since taking over from Bernard Laporte after the 2007 World Cup.

“We have learned to stay cautious, because of the French team’s recent history, this inability to win three matches in a row. We are far from the level Ireland reached with 12 matches unbeaten,” Lievremont said at the French camp at Marcoussis.

“Before we can talk about Grand Slams we have this match in Cardiff, which is just as perilous.”

France has reached two World Cup finals, losing to New Zealand in 1987 and to Australia in 1999. England is the only northern hemisphere team to win rugby’s biggest honor, and this irks Lievremont.

“If there’s one thing the French must do it’s to keep performing over the long term,” he said.

The French, hosting the tournament, showed their erratic streak at the last World Cup three years ago.

After beating tournament favorite New Zealand 20-18 in the quarterfinals with a stunning second-half comeback, France then flopped at home, losing 14-9 to England in the semifinals as Laporte bewilderingly ditched France’s traditional attacking game for a turgid defensive approach.

The inconsistent pattern continued last year. France beat Wales – the 2008 Grand Slam champion – 21-16, won in New Zealand 27-22 in June and then beat World Cup holder South Africa 20-13.


But a 34-10 defeat to England at Twickenham and a 39-12 thrashing at home to the All Blacks soured Lievremont’s mood.

“It goes beyond rugby itself … it has always been a French problem,” Lievremont said. “As a coach it’s hard to accept … I would like us to rise above it and find some cohesion.”

“We get carried away too quickly in France. The blatant example of this is what happened in November, we beat the world champions South Africa and dominated Samoa,” Lievremont said.

“We were cautious about facing New Zealand but the press couldn’t understand why we didn’t consider ourselves favorite. It’s pretentious and completely disproportionate. The day we rack up 12 wins in a row, then we can consider ourselves favorite (against New Zealand).”

The 41-year-old Lievremont won the Grand Slam as a player in 1998 -France put 50 points past both Wales and Scotland – during a stop-start career in which he collected 23 caps as a flanker.

Now, coaching a crop of talented French players that were capable of dominating Ireland even when decimated by injuries, he finds controlling egos even tougher than playing.

“This excess of confidence has a knock-on effect and we have a hard job to do,” he said. “We tell them ‘be careful, keep your feet on the ground’.

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