Six Nations 2015: Philippe Saint-André bullish as he rings changes

France head coach makes eight changes for Italy, but insists he has faith in his players to recover from their disappointing form

The Sport Review staff
By The Sport Review staff

Philippe Saint-André insists he has a squad capable of winning as he makes eight changes to his France team to face Italy on Sunday.

Our squad is made of great professionals, they know they have to do better. We trust them, they are focused, and I know they will perform on Sunday.

Philippe Saint-André on his faith in current squad

The France head coach has finally lost patience with a number of his misfiring team after a 20-13 home defeat to Wales at the Stade de France last time out ended any hopes he had of winning the title.

France have lost on their last two visits to Rome, but need to bounce back to salvage some pride before their final match against England at Twickenham next week with concerns in France that the current squad players are not performing well enough to be a force at the Rugby World Cup in six months’ time.

“We need to get out of this rough patch, that is for sure,” Saint-André said at his media briefing on Thursday.

“Let’s play some rugby, believe in ourselves, not be afraid, enjoy, tackle, move the ball around. We will go to Italy with all these intentions.

“We have quality players, and they will prove their worth on the pitch. Our squad is made of great professionals, they know they have to do better.

“We trust them, they are focused, and I know they will perform on Sunday.

“The week has been good so far, and we will have a few more sessions to be ready for game day in Rome, to be prepared to play, to fight, to create good plays, to play smart, to be disciplined.

“It will be a tough clash, and discipline will be key.”

Veteran tighthead prop Nicolas Mas makes his first start in this year’s championship in place of Rabah Slimani as one of three changes in the pack.

Loann Goujon replaces Damien Chouly at number eight, while Alexandre Flanquart comes into the engine room in place of Romain Taofifenua, who joins Chouly and Slimani in dropping to the bench.

We need to do more, to do better. We can’t wait to be 30 minutes into a game to start playing. Some players have not performed like we expected, it’s only fair that we make a few changes. Now we want total and absolute involvement from the players.

Philippe Saint-André on making eight changes for Italy

Behind the scrum, Sébastien Tillous-Borde is promoted from the bench to start in place of injured scrum-half Morgan Parra, with Rory Kockott returning to the bench, while Jules Plisson could make his first appearance of the championship after being added to the match-day squad.

There is also a recall at full-back for Scott Spedding, who began the opening two rounds of the tournament before being dropped for fit-again Brice Dulin.

Following Sofiane Guitoune’s injury, Noa Nakaitaci comes in to make his debut on the left wing, but there is still no place in the French midfield for Toulon powerhouse Mathieu Bastareaud as his club team-mate Maxime Mermoz and 20-year-old Toulouse centre Gaël Fickou get the nod.

Clermont Auvergne’s Chouly is one of those players to lose his place in the starting XV after a disappointing performance in Paris was singled out for criticism by the France head coach, who is coming under increasing pressure head of the Rugby World Cup.

“There were more than one outburst coming from me,” Saint-André added.

“We need to do more, to do better. We can’t wait to be 30 minutes into a game to start playing.

“Some players have not performed like we expected, it’s only fair that we make a few changes. Now we want total and absolute involvement from the players.

“We know Damien is a quality player, and he knows we expect more from him than what he did against Wales for instance.

“Loann knows our systems, his power will be appreciated, especially since Flanquart will bring a lot in the lineout.

“With him starting, we can have a more powerful player at number eight.

“Loann is powerful and smart, he can offload and play behind the defensive line.

“It is his time to show that he can do more than play for five or 10 minutes at the end of a game.”

France: Scott Spedding (Bayonne); Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Gaël Fickou (Toulouse), Maxime Mermoz (Toulon), Noa Nakaitaci (Clermont Auvergne); Camille Lopez (Clermont Auvergne), Sébastien Tillous-Borde (Toulon); Eddy Ben Arous (Racing Métro), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon), Nicolas Mas (Montpellier), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Français), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse, captain), Bernard Le Roux (Racing Métro), Loann Gujon (La Rochelle).

Replacements: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), Rabah Slimani (Stade Français), Romain Taofiféneua (Toulon), Damien Chouly (Clermont Auvergne); Rory Kockott (Castres), Jules Plisson (Stade Français), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon).

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