France coach confident of competitive season, but no winning promises

France national coach Marc Lievremont and his lieutenants Emile N'Tamack and Didier Retiere have survived to fight another Six Nations campaign after a full and frank meeting with the French Rugby Federation (FFR).

• Mark Lievremont: Ready for challenges

When Les Bleus secured the RBS title in March with their first Grand Slam since 2004, some of Lievremont's more vociferous critics were silenced and it was an upbeat squad which set out on their summer tour.

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But a crushing 42-17 loss against South Africa and a demoralising 41-13 reverse against an Argentina side still reeling after back-to-back Test defeats at the hands of Scotland ended any notion that Lievremont had constructed a squad of World Cup contenders.

A comfortable 34-12 win over Fiji in mid-November appeared to have brought Lievremont back into the fold, but the grumblings resurfaced the following week as France struggled to atone for their drubbing in Argentina by outkicking the Pumas to post a 15-9 success. And, when Australia turned up the heat at the Stade de France seven days later to hammer Lievremont's men 59-16 after reaching half time tied at 13-13, the well of Grand Slam goodwill had run dry.

There were calls for the heads of Lievremont and his lieutenants but last week the FFR summoned the incumbent trio and, after a frank exchange of views, confirmed that all three would remain in position. Their task now is to prepare a side ready to launch the defence of the Six Nations title against Scotland on 5 February.

Lievremont will now assume greater responsibility, effectively limiting the influence of his assistants. He said: "I've always wanted to involve my staff and that has proved very constructive. But I felt I had to take things in hand. When the same message is given by three different people, it is diluted a bit."

He insists that the infrastructure is in place for next year's challenges, adding, "I am extremely confident in the future of this team. I can't promise a Grand Slam or a World Cup, but I am certain that we will be competitive."