Bottom-placed France have 'the will to fight', says Philippe Saint-Andre
The French team have soul and spirit despite a disastrous Six Nations campaign that saw them land the wooden spoon for the first time since 1999, claims a defiant France coach Philippe Saint-Andre.
The French took the unwanted prize despite beating Scotland 23-16 at the Stade de France, their first win of the campaign, to end the tournament with three points. They finished bottom of the table, equal on points with Ireland but with a worse points difference.
Saint-Andre, who replaced the unpredictable Marc Lievremont after France lost 8-7 to the All Blacks in the 2011 World Cup final, said his largely young group of players had shown their resilience during the tournament.
"This team have soul, spirit and the will to fight," said the 45-year-old. "Twice they had the character to come from behind, against the Irish last week [they came from 13-3 down to draw 13-13] and again against the Scots [they trailed 6-0 at half-time]."
However, Saint-Andre said they needed to acquire other qualities which were painfully absent throughout the tournament, namely executing their try-scoring chances of which at least four went a-begging against the Scots.
"At this level you require patience and to be more clinical," said Saint-Andre. "However, we have a team packed with youth, a very young second row, very young centres, and they will learn. We believe in the youth of French rugby."
He has laid a large part of the blame for the poor performances at the door of an overloaded domestic playing schedule which he is praying will be revised when the clubs, the players representatives and the federation meet in June.
"My two predecessors asked for a similar reform," he said. "I hope, I really hope that they finally do so, not just so we can build properly for the 2015 World Cup but for the next 15 years."