Saint Andre wants France to be consistent

France’s new coach Philippe Saint Andre has revealed that his goal starting in the Six Nations is to give the team the consistency that has been missing for nigh on a century.

The 44-year-old succeeded Marc Lievremont, who despite leading the French to one Grand Slam and the World Cup final did so to the backdrop of massively inconsistent performances – such as losing to Tonga in the World Cup pool stage – and an increasingly dissaffected squad.

Saint-Andre, who lost out to Lievremont for the post after the 2007 World Cup despite having more coaching experience, said it was time to put it right and not to leave the French fans in a state of limbo as to which French team would turn up on matchday.

“This is French rugby for the last four years – for the last 100 years,” said Saint-Andre.

“We can be one day up here and one day near to the floor.

“The biggest challenge – and we spoke with the players about this – is to try to be very consistent,” added the former national skipper, who was capped 69 times.

Saint-Andre, who broke his coaching teeth with English side Gloucester before spells with Bourgoin, Sale and Toulon, believes that this consistency cannot only come from the players but also in changing the system in French domestic rugby.

“We are the only country who have the league Friday and Saturday,” he said referring to the Top 14 league programme this weekend.

“We know the other countries have much more time to prepare. For the players, it is not easy. Last week, it was the European Cup. This week is French league and next week it’s Six Nations.

“So they play three different competitions in three different weeks.

“We need to improve a few areas to give more times for the players to prepare for the Six Nations.

“The French league, the federation, know this and they’ve started to speak with each other to try to find a French way to try to be as competitive as possible.”

Saint-Andre has stuck with 14 of the 15 players who started the World Cup final 8-7 defeat by the All Blacks in the 23-man squad he has chosen for the home opener against Italy, but in new faces such as Clermont centre Wesley Fofana will hope that they become the nucleus of the 2015 World Cup group.

Saint-Andre’s backroom coaching staff of backs coach Patrice Lagisquet and scrum counterpart Yannick Bru realise that in what is likely to be a tight tournament their side goes into it as favourites by virtue of their going so close in the World Cup final.

“Everyone is imbued with the spirit of that final, the performance that they produced with the All Blacks at bay in the final quarter-of-an-hour,” said Lagisquet, like Saint-Andre a former France wing and dubbed the ‘Bayonne Express’.

“It is clear that this team is the favourite.

“It is imperative we show ourselves worthy of that mantle. Although one can say that it will add extra pressure,” added Lagisquet, who coached Biarritz to three national titles (2002/05/06) and the 2006 European Cup final.

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