Six Nations 2015: France have to stay positive against Italy, says Mermoz
Toulon centre believes Les Bleus aren't far off a winning formula despite another disappointing start to the year
Maxime Mermoz insists France have to stay positive to bounce back from a disappointing start to the RBS 6 Nations.
The 28-year-old lines up alongside Toulouse youngster Gaël Fickou in Rome to take on Italy on Sunday hoping to make an impact after watching his country again stall in the championship in the wake of expectation.
Nobody likes this situation, and we all want to change things. We have to stay positive if we want to move forward.
Maxime Mermoz on France’s failure in the Six Nations
Six months out from the Rugby World Cup, France have failed to get close to hitting the ground running, and there are concerns in the country that, on current showing, Philippe Saint-Andre’s Les Bleus could crash and burn when the rugby union showpiece gets underway in England later this year.
The Toulon centre doesn’t have an answer as to why they haven’t performed so far in the tournament, losing their last two matches against Ireland and Wales after an opening-round win over Scotland, but believes there is no reason to always be negative about what is in the past.
“During the week, there is no reason to be negative,” he said.
“I don’t there is any one crying themselves to sleep at night.
“There were good things at times, and sometimes there was nothing. It kept me wondering how and why things were not working.
“It still feels like it is only a matter of details before things start going our way. If you look at the last game, Wales had huge possession, which can wear down your confidence.
“Despite this, we had opportunities, we stayed in the game and it was a close one.
“Of course, nobody likes this situation, and we all want to change things.
“We have to stay positive if we want to move forward.”
Saint-Andre has made eight changes to the side that started in Paris against Wales, with Mermoz starting at inside centre against the Azzurri, and the 28-times capped midfielder will play a key role in the backline along with Clermont Auvergne outside-half Camille Lopez, who has been fairly solid if not spectacular in his debut season in the Six Nations.
If we perform and enjoy ourselves this weekend, we will be here for the next one, and that should be the mindset. Each game we play should be considered our last chance.
Maxime Mermoz on the threat of losing his France jersey
He will also have another familiar face at half-back with Toulon scrum-half Sebastien Tillous-Borde making his first start of 2015.
Tillous-Borde, who returned from injury off the bench against Wales, is the third scrum-half deployed from the start in this year’s championship after Rory Kockott’s failure in the opening two matches and Clermont’s Morgan Parra went off injured against Wales.
Lopez and Tillous-Borde proved to be an effective partnership for France in the November internationals, but Mermoz admits that he will still have a big part to play in helping his half-backs run the game.
“I hope we can play smart; as a team,” he added.
“I am more experienced now, but I have always tried to get involved as a centre, as I am close to the fly-half.
“Camille is a big boy, but we need to communicate with him a lot, and give him solutions.
“I have played fly-half when I was young, and if no one talks to you it is very difficult.
“It is crucial that Gaël and I feed as much info as we can to Camille.”
The Toulonnais midfielder also concedes that other countries now expect that France will send his club team-mate Mathieu Bastareaud bombing through the middle.
It is a tactic that has yielded little for Saint-Andre so far in the championship to the point that the France head coach dropped Bastareaud to the bench for the Wales game, and the giant centre remains there for the Italy game, to be used more as an impact player.
“We need more alternatives,” Mermoz said.
“Mathieu has his qualities, but he is now expected and it can be hard for us to keep the play going when defenses are ready for him.
“We can’t rely just on that, we need more speed in our execution.”
Mermoz admits that the Rugby World Cup, which is now just six months away, as been an unwelcome distraction for some of the France squad.
But he believes that everyone given a starting jersey against Italy on Sunday needs to treat it is as their last chance to prove themselves, or they could find themselves out of side against England at Twickenham next week.
“It is on everyone’s lips, and that is an issue because it shouldn’t keep you from living in the present,” he said
“Instead of working to improve, we are trying to skip a few steps by projecting too far forward.
“The World Cup is near, but given the results during the past three years, focusing on that objective may have been a mistake.
“As of now, the squad wants to live in the present.
“If we perform and enjoy ourselves this weekend, we will be here for the next one, and that should be the mindset. Each game we play should be considered our last chance.”