Six Nations Championship

Time to finish on a high, Saint-Andre tells French squad

France coach tells his players they owe home fans a big victory after woeful campaign

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 5:49pm

France will bid to erase a woeful Six Nations campaign by beating Scotland at the Stade de France and hope other results go their way so they avoid their first wooden spoon since 1999.

Then they landed the unwanted title thanks to a home defeat by the Scots, which was the last time they won in Paris.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has told his players they owe their fans a big performance.

"I have told the players they must battle for 80 minutes and take the game by the scruff of the neck," he said.

"I want them to deliver pleasure to the public, to the Stade de France and to French rugby. I want them to finish on a high note in what has been for us a very, very bad Six Nations."

Saint-Andre, whose side are on a seven-match winless run in the Six Nations - the worst in almost 90 years - made three changes to the starting 15 in last Saturday's bruising 13-13 draw with Ireland in Dublin.

In comes South African-born flanker Antonie Claassen, for Yannick Nyanga, New Caledonia-born lock Sebastien Vahaamahina, for Christophe Samson, and powerful centre Mathieu Bastareaud for Florian Fritz.

"We decided to make two changes up front not only because of the Scottish pack's strengths, but also because a lot of rain is forecast for Saturday and we wanted to add a little more power to the scrum," Saint-Andre said.

Saint-Andre, who last Sunday had to rubbish rumours he was thinking of standing down, retained faith with under-fire flyhalf Frederic Michalak.

"I cannot imagine the people who were applauding him in November [when he played an influential role in France's three Test wins], will boo him on Saturday," Saint-Andre said.

Bastareaud will certainly deliver extra power in the backs. His demotion from the starting 15 for the Ireland game was something of a surprise as he had been one of the few French players to make an impact this season. The Toulon centre, whose battle with his weight has replaced a previous tussle with his mental demons, delivered a stirring call to arms to his team-mates earlier this week.

"The objective is to win, and if possible in style," he said. "It is imperative we stop asking ourselves 10,000 questions, to think of what will happen if we lose."

However, Scotland's interim coach Scott Johnson believes his side can ensure France's campaign ends on a suitably miserable note. "They say you shouldn't wake sleeping giants. But trust me, our intention is to wake them our way," he said.