Les Bleus v The Red Dragons

Philippe Saint-Andre is angry.  He claims his players are not giving their all and that some are too concerned with their off pitch antics to focus completely.  PSA has promised many changes to the squad that will travel to Italy for the next RBS Six Nations encounter.

I can’t agree with PSA’s assessment.  For me, this was a French side with more flair than we’ve seen so far this RBS Six Nations tournament.  Every man in blue on that pitch at Stade de France worked hard.  Witness the massive tackles.  See the great breaks of the gain line.  The accuracy in the scrum and lineouts (100% record for each of these set pieces), every man gave his all.

Missed his second attempt at goal, from a penalty, Cami Lopez decided he had an issue with the tee, which undoubtedly affected him psychologically, missing yet another penalty.  1/3 is NOT good enough at this level.  Had he slotted those two missed chances over, France would have run into their changing room at half time 9-6 up.

The first half showed that Wales had 75% possession of the ball and conversely, 71 carries and 189 metres made, against France’s 25 carries and 131 metres, so to end the first half 3-6 was not bad and the French faithful must have had hope going into the second half, but also crossing their fingers that Cami could find form again.  In France, Fly Half and Scrum Half switch kicking roles regularly and Thomas Castaignede (talking on BBC1) called for Parra to take the kicks for the second half.

PSA must have been listening to the BBC coverage, because the penalty awarded early to France was taken by Parra, but he missed.

The French side started the second half with intent, but again, too many errors gave the ball away to Wales, who were clinical with their treatment of this French side.  However, every time France had ball in hand, you couldn’t help but be hopeful that they would finish what were some great runs, great breaks of the gain line.

Time and again though, for each moment of brilliance that France showed, they lost the ball, gave away penalties and were sloppy. France’s area of positivity has been the ruck.  They’re aggressive, winning turnovers and in the first half certainly, Wales needed to get to the breakdown much quicker.

When Brice Dulan scored a try (the first try France have scored against Wales in six matches), the home crowd livened up and flags were flying, however, as Les Bleus continued to make errors, the home crowd let their team know their feelings, with boos and whistles echoing around the stadium.  The game finished 13-20.

The statistics for the game show Les Bleus with 46% possession and 45% territory.  France just haven’t been able to convert their possession into points – something that’s affecting the players; French Captain Dusautoir said “We said all week that we wanted to play some running rugby, to loosen up, and we struggled to do so.
There was nervousness in the first half, second was a bit better, but we need to start those game with a lighter spirit. That would allow us to win those games. I know that things can change quickly, but there are a few things that we have to address and focus on.”

I do not believe the fault lies with the French players.  I feel Les Bleus are not getting the leadership they require from their Head Coach.  I don’t believe the players believe in their abilities and I also think that game tactics are completely wrong.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  If Philippe Saint-Andre is still in charge after this tournament, I’ll eat my beret.

By the way – do not rely completely on Google translations… Google translated “Philippe Saint-Andre a la rage” to “Philippe Saint-Andre has rabies”…  Bitten by the Welsh maybe, but foaming at the mouth?  Certainly, it would seem that L’Equipe and Google would have us believe so.

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