Saint-Andre happy to be underdogs

  • Last Updated: February 21 2013, 15:53 GMT

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre accepts his team head into Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with England as underdogs, but believes that could work in their favour against Stuart Lancaster's Grand Slam-chasing side.

Saint-Andre: France coach
Saint-Andre: France coach

Les Bleus, who famously overcame a dreadful group campaign to reach the 2011 World Cup final, travel to Twickenham having lost their opening two Five or Six Nations games for the first time since 1982.

Wales' 16-6 success in Paris 12 days ago followed a 23-18 loss in Italy six days previously, meaning the wooden spoon has now become a distinct possibility for the pre-tournament favourites.

But Saint-Andre reckons his players will relish the tag of outsiders.

"The English will start favourites," he said. "We will have to show all our qualities of being French on Saturday - that means being brave, daring, unpredictable and to take the fight to them.

"When we are able to do that, we are able to pose problems for any team in the world.

"To be honest, it's always a good thing when we French have our backs to the wall. That forces us to regroup and to better prepare individually for what will be a bruising contest.

"Often, the French rugby team has proved to be better when labelled as outsiders rather than favourites."

Saint-Andre has made seven changes to his starting line-up - most notably in opting for a new half-back pairing, with Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc replacing Maxime Machenaud and Frederic Michalak following the Wales loss.

"After two defeats in the tournament, we wanted competition and freshness in the squad," Saint-Andre said. "We have to have the freshness and enthusiasm.

"We will be prepared to fight a lot in Twickenham."

Saint-Andre played down the decision to go with a new half-back duo, insisting there was nothing personal in dropping Michalak and Machenaud.

"We are making logical preparations for the next World Cup," the 45-year-old said. "And we cannot go to a World Cup with a single half-back pairing.

"We really wanted to see Francois Trinh-Duc at the start and it was not possible. In addition, they know each other well, he and Morgan Parra."

He added: "Frederic has played a lot. He played the last six matches.

"It is normal that he lacks freshness. But the week of rest served him well and we will need everyone. We also wanted to take off some of the pressure."

Vincent Clerc returns on the right wing, with Wesley Fofana switching to his preferred role of centre.

Castres lock Christophe Samson will earn only his second cap this weekend, with Saint-Andre keen for the 6ft 6in 28-year-old to challenge England in the lineout, where they were so impressive in beating Ireland 12-6 at the Aviva Stadium last time out.

"We wanted to strengthen our lineout, and we know all about the quality of Christophe's movement," Saint-Andre said.

"The English are a very big team. We saw, particularly against Ireland, that they stole a lot of ball. So we decided to go with a little more size, with Samson in the second row."


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