FRANCE had no-one but themselves to blame for Sunday’s shock 23-18 defeat by Italy in their Six Nations opener, manager Philippe Saint-Andre admitted yesterday as he analysed the setback in Rome.
Saint-Andre said his side had needed more precision, adding: “We should have put more pressure [on them], as we did in the first half.”
However, the manager said the defeat by an improving Italy side, who head to Murrayfield to face Scotland this weekend, needed to be put into perspective.
“We have not lost the tournament,” Saint-Andre said. “Of course we’ve lost the Grand Slam but we know that this competition is rough, atypical and difficult.”
Saint-Andre has kept faith with the players humbled by Italy for his side’s second game of this year’s championship, against Wales on Saturday.
Saint-Andre has made just one enforced change to his side, with injured captain Pascal Pape replaced by Toulon lock Jocelino Suta. Back-row forward Thierry Dusautoir will return to the captaincy in the absence of Pape, who suffered a lower back injury during the defeat at the Stadio Olimpico.
The same personnel will be given the chance to make amends for that result, with Saint-Andre calling for a much-improved team effort against a Wales side also looking to bounce back from an opening defeat, against Ireland on Saturday.
He said: “With Yannick [Bru] and Patrice [Lagisquet, Saint-Andre’s assistants], we have looked back several times over the match, analysed and dissected the game and the players. Our team must rediscover their collective spirit, their enthusiasm and spontaneity.
“To work with this group and refine the team’s rhythm for this short week, we have not made any changes except for the injury to Pascal Pape. I hope this will bring us better cohesion to beat Wales on Saturday at the Stade de France and that there will be a greater fighting spirit.
“The tournament is far from over. Our ambition is always there to produce our best in this high-level competition.”
Squad: Forwards: V Debaty (Clermont), Y Forestier (Castres), B Kayser (Clermont), D Szarzewski (Racing Metro), L Ducalcon (Racing Metro), N Mas (Perpignan), Y Maestri (Toulouse), J Suta (Toulon), R Taofifenua (Perpignan), D Chouly (Clermont), T Dusautoir (captain, Toulouse), F Ouedraogo (Montpellier), L Picamoles (Toulouse). Backs: M Machenaud (Racing Metro), M Parra (Clermont), F Michalak (Toulon), F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Bastareaud (Toulon), B Fall (Racing Metro), W Fofana (Clermont), F Fritz (Toulouse), Y Huget (Toulouse), M Mermoz (Toulon).