‘Mature’ France face fine tune ahead of Ireland

France coach Marc Lievremont admitted to being surprised by the maturity shown by his youthful team in their 27-6 Six Nations win over Scotland, but added that there was much fine-tuning to do ahead of Saturday’s home game against Ireland.

Lievremont’s side featured four international debutants and just six members of Bernard Laporte’s World Cup squad but it gelled almost immediately and showed far too much class, imagination and pace for Scotland.

The coach said, however, that video analysis had highlighted a poor first-half kicking game, sloppy defence against Scotland’s rolling mauls, and a sluggishness in clearing the ball out of their own rucks and mauls.

“But these few problems remain small compared to the general impression, notably the commitment of everyone upfront, in the movement, the defensive cohesion.

“That’s the real positive point to take from the match, besides the score of course,” he said.

The 39-year-old coach said that his team would pinpoint a number of aspects of play to improve on ahead of the game at the Stade de France against Ireland, unconvincing 16-11 winners over Italy in Dublin on Saturday.

“There are lots of things to fine-tune in establishing our game,” he said. “We’ll also work on launching the attack, an area in which we were a little lacking.

“There’ll also be a lot of rest because we play on Saturday,” he added. “There will be only one heavy day’s work, on Wednesday.”

Lievremont praised experienced scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde for offering a cool head and invaluable link for the lesser experienced youngsters in the team during the clash against Scotland.

“We were suprised by the team’s maturity and game management,” admitted the former Dax coach.

“They weren’t panicked. We owe that essentially to Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, who knew how to balance the team’s game, in the good times as well as the difficult, and to relaunch the game as we had worked it.

“Collectively, we had some doubts because of the small amount of time we had to work together. But what we saw was a real cohesion.” Lievremont again dismissed the cliche of “French flair”: “That’s often a good performance behind very bad matches.

“We’d like to register a certain form of continuity and not be happy with pulling off one good result from time to time.” But Lievremont added: “To be honest, I’ve never thought about it (the Grand Slam). We’re too far from the end of the tournament. We’ve started well, it’s true, with a bit of success.

“This week, we have to keep our feet on the ground and think of Ireland.” Lievremont, who said that he had received congratulations “before and after the match” from predecessor Laporte, also had a special word of praise for 21-year-old Montpellier outside-half Francois Trinh-Duc.

“We loved Francois’ performance,” he said. “He knew how to respond to our expectations by alternating his game and taking initiatives.

“David (Skrela) also played well when he came on. And we can’t forget either Lionel Beauxis or Fred Michalak,” the other heirs apparent for the number 10 shirt.

Sapa-AFP SixNationsweb.co.uk

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