Saint-Andre fears for French rugby

  • Last Updated: February 24 2013, 15:28 GMT

Philippe Saint-Andre issued a warning over the future of French rugby after Les Bleus crashed to a 23-13 RBS 6 Nations defeat to England at Twickenham.

Philippe Saint-Andre: Lessons to learn
Philippe Saint-Andre: Lessons to learn

While England look ahead to a potential Grand Slam, pre-tournament favourites France are bottom of the table having suffered three consecutive defeats.

Head coach Saint-Andre was frustrated that Manu Tuilagi's decisive try was allowed to stand when Tom Wood's kick ricocheted to the England centre off Mako Vunipola, who was offside.

But Saint-Andre's problems stretch wider than just a missed call from referee Craig Joubert, with the French Top 14 attracting a flood of overseas imports in key positions.

The former Gloucester and Sale boss looks jealously at the strides English rugby has taken following an agreement between the clubs and the Rugby Football Union.

"Fair play to English rugby. Seven or eight years ago they had a lot of overseas players in the English league and they had a change of politics," Saint-Andre said.

"And I think they were completely spot-on. For us, we have had 12 or 15 years and we still haven't changed it.

"I think it will be worse and worse because next year, (Jonathan) Sexton will arrive and three or four other overseas fly-halves will arrive.

"We have some positions - tighthead, fly-half, wing, full-back - that will maybe next year be 90 per cent overseas players.

"So we need to be careful about the future of French rugby. I said this in November. It is better to say this when you win.

"It is not an excuse about this loss. I have worked in England and I have worked in France and I think you need to congratulate English rugby for the last eight years.

"Now you have 50 or 60 young kids of 22, 23 or 24 doing very well for England."

The RFU has implemented an English Qualified Player scheme, which financially rewards clubs who field players eligible for the national team.

As a result, the number of young English players emerging in the Aviva Premiership is rising and the pool of talent available to head coach Stuart Lancaster increasing.

Saint-Andre was criticised for his team selections in the defeats to Italy and Wales but insisted he had little choice because the strength in depth was not there.

That proved crucial yesterday. England grew stronger after sending on the likes of Tom Youngs and James Haskell while the French replacements could not make the same impact.

Despite that, Saint-Andre was frustrated that Tuilagi's try, which put England in control, was allowed to stand.

"I don't know how we can accept it. The ball was kicked into the guy in front," Saint-Andre said.

"If the referee doesn't see it, he has two assistants.

"After that happened, their bench was very good and brought a lot. For us, our bench did not bring what we expected.

"Games like this come down to a few moments and they are going against us. I take the responsibility for this.

"England have three wins and play for the Grand Slam, we have three losses and play for the wooden spoon.

"In November we were flying, at the moment it is hard, it is tough. But we have a lot of young players who have discovered Twickenham and they will have learned a lot about this."


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