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Forget being favourites Saint-Andre tells France

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Article Published: Friday 3 February 2012

Philippe Saint-Andre makes his Six Nations coaching debut when France take on Italy on Saturday, and the former international winger is urging his team to forget their favourites tag.

Saint-Andre, a former winger and captain of Les Bleus, took over as coach after Marc Lievremont was stripped of the post following a troubled World Cup campaign.

Although France managed to get to the final, where they lost 8-7 to hosts New Zealand, there was a shock pool defeat to Tonga and ill-feeling between the outspoken Lievremont and the players.

Saint-Andre cut his coaching teeth with English side Gloucester before spells with Bourgoin, Sale and a return to France with Toulon before taking on the national job.

And he has not rocked the boat for Saturday's match, picking 17 members of the World Cup squad in his 22-man match-day squad, with Clermont centre Wesley Fofana the sole uncapped player to make the starting XV.

"We want the players to play with a physical commitment, no handbrakes left on," the 44-year-old said.

"We've had a good week working together, but the truth reveals itself on the paddock. It's up to them to show what we've done.

"We'll have to show a lot of desire, enthusiasm, team spirit, to be accurate in our game in a bid to put together a quality match.

"We've got real bullets from Saturday."

Italy enjoy an unenviable record of having recorded just eight wins in 60 matches played since the Six Nations kicked off in 2000, but Saint-Andre was not willing to write them off.

Former Perpignan boss Jacques Brunel has taken over the Italians from Nick Mallett and the former will be eager to try to produce a repeat of last year's shock 22-21 victory over the French.

"We know that matches against Italy are always very complicated. They're a good team, well balanced and he (Brunel) has thrown in some young guys in the backline," Saint-Andre said.

"We respect this team, which won against France last season. It's a powerful team, well organised defensively.

"During the World Cup, they were well in the match against Ireland and Australia for 55-60 minutes.

"Up front, it risks being very tough, but it'll be cold and the players will need to warm themselves up!"

Saint-Andre was also quick to dimiss talk of France being the favourites for the tournament, saying the English were past masters at talking up the chances of other teams.

"I worked in England for 10 years. Everybody knows that they are the best at piling pressure on other teams," he said.

"In Six Nations tournaments after World Cups, there are no favourites.

"England have really enormous potential. People say they had a bad World Cup but they only lost one match, against France (in the quarter-finals).

"Wales have a great generation of players, the European Cup has shown that the best provinces are Irish... This Six Nations is more open than ever."

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