Six Nations 2015: Philippe Saint-Andre disappointed by Wales defeat
France head coach rues injuries and errors as they slump to a fourth successive tournament defeat to Wales
Philippe Saint-Andre cut a frustrated figure after another disappointing performance saw France slump to a 20-13 defeat to Wales in Paris.
A second defeat in as many matches has now ended any ambitions Les Bleus had on winning a first RBS 6 Nations title since their Grand Slam success in 2010.
The boys need to work, because we failed to achieve even the most basic things to be able to win.
France lost 27-6 when they played Wales at the Millennium Stadium last year, but this was arguably an even more frustrating performance from a side that is not short of talent as Leigh Halfpenny kept the scoreboard ticking over for Wales either side of Dan Biggar scoring his first international try.
Brice Dulin scored France’s only try in the second half – converted by an out-of-sorts Camille Lopez – to set up a nervy finale, but it was nothing more than consolation as Wales defended bravely to keep the French forwards away from their tryline and a final scrum penalty brought an end to proceedings at the Stade de France.
“When you lose an international test, it means that a lot of things went wrong,” said Saint-Andre after the match.
“Even though we tried and created interesting things, it took us more than 30 minutes to be able to link more than three phases of play together.
“We were in good defensive shape, but at international level you can’t afford to leave possession for such periods of time.
“Even if we scored a try, if another was denied, we only had a 50 per cent accuracy rate in front of the sticks, which makes it difficult to win.
“On top of that we lost both midfielders from injury, Morgan Parra hurt his knee as well.
“That being said, we should have been able to win this game. Now we have to get back to work.
“The boys need to work, because we failed to achieve even the most basic things to be able to win.”
Saint-Andre had dropped Toulon powerhouse Mathieu Bastareaud from the France midfield, but he was called upon at the end of the opening quarter as Remi Lamerat went off with injury.
They had one opportunity to score and they did; their kicker was five for five. They were pragmatic, we were not.
Recalled scrum-half Morgan Parra also succumbed to a knee injury early in the second half, robbing France of the chance to use their bench to make more of an impact in the final quarter.
While the bench, notably the front row replacements, had impressed against Ireland in Dublin two weeks ago, they were not as effective against an experienced Welsh forwards unit led by Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones.
And the France head coach conceded that they need to work a lot harder if they are to challenge for the title in an ever-competitive championship.
“I’m not going to say we are a great team at the moment,” he added.
“There were good things in November, but we lost against Argentina. We dominated Scotland, but it was still a tight win.
“We dominated the last 30 minutes against Ireland, we missed five kicking points and weren’t disciplined enough.
“Same thing today. We did well at times, but we spent massive energy just to score three points, only to give three away right after.
“We dominated in the scrum – the only one we didn’t dominate gave three points to Wales.
“Credit to them though. They are an experienced team, with 10 or 12 players that were playing in the last Rugby World Cup, against two on our side.
“Despite the fact that we are getting closer to top level, we are still missing a few things: accuracy in our kicking game, fitness for some players who can’t play a full 80-minute game.
“We need to keep working – technically, physically – even if the boys will go back to their clubs, which will only leave us with one week to prepare for Italy.
“Let’s finish this championship well, the World Cup will be a different story, with a full two months in camp.
“I do believe we are getting closer, they dominated us two year ago, but today we were closer.
“They had one opportunity to score and they did; their kicker was five for five. They were pragmatic, we were not.”
And Saint-Andre appeared to take a swipe at the structures in French domestic rugby as the majority of his players arbitrarily return to their cash-rich Top 14 clubs, while the other nations’ coaches are able to dictate the management of their key players and when they should return to their clubs.
“I am also questioning certain things,” he said. “We picked [Sebastien] Tillous-Borde in November and he got injured, Rory Kockott got injured [against Ireland], Morgan Parra got injured.
“We have to face the number of our international players suffering from injury at some point during the season.
“The All Blacks, the Irish, the Welsh, are all playing 25 top level games per season. Our structure is different.
“We have to live with it. I do because I was aware of it when I took the job.
“When you put on that jersey, it has to be all joy and pride, and at the moment it’s all pressure and nervousness.
“We also need to face the fact that we are facing massive opposition.
“The days where Ireland and Wales were trailing behind are over, they more than caught up since rugby became professional.
“They adapted; the main focus in these countries in the national team, and the results follow.”