Former France winger and head-coach thinks Ireland are more focused on the Six Nations than club rugby

 

Former France head-coach Philippe Saint-André thinks the demands of Top-14 rugby has de-railed their chances in the Six Nations over the past decade. 

Speaking to Dave McIntyre on tonight's Off the Ball ahead of France hosting Ireland on Saturday, the 69-times capped winger expressed his belief that Ireland's provincial system has helped them improve in recent years, and he's hopeful that reforms made to French rugby will enable them to re-climb the ladder. 

"Ireland have adapted 'much better to to the professional era, with your organisation and province (system), the guys train very hard and rest for some periods and they're very, very focused for international games."

Le Goret believes international games represents the 'church' for Irish players while for France 'the Top 14 is big money, competitions for 11 months a year...it's been fantastic for business but a big, big failure for our country. The Top 14 is similar to the Premier League in soccer in England, great for money and great for the supporters but terrible for our national team."

 

Former Ireland out-half and Racing 92 coach Ronan O'Gara has called France a 'mess' heading into this year's Six Nations but Saint-Andre thinks the situation has improved since Guy Noves' sacking last month.

"We've started to see some young French players in the Top 14 and this didn't exist for ten years. Also the players now have more time to prepare (for the Six Nations). Previously they had two weeks and they will not go back to their clubs during the Six Nations, that wasn't the case when I was coach of the French team.

"I think we've started to improve and have a new generation of players but we need now to be patient because we haven't made many good decisions over the last nine or ten years. We're ninth in the world ranking and I don't think we can fall much further than this." 

  

 INPHO/Dan Sheridan

 

He feels new head-coach Jacques Brunel will benefit hugely from now not having to release the players back to their clubs during the tournament. 

"It's huge. Twice we won the first two tests and I asked (the French Rugby Federation) to let them rest but 90 per cent of them played week three with their club and then we couldn't then win our third game in the Six Nations. 

"The French team need to make a good start and of course you'll be hard to beat but at least the players are focused on the next nine weeks. Before they needed to switch on for a couple of weeks and then their clubs and then come back and this happened throughout the Six Nations and it made it impossible to win."

France failed to beat Ireland across five games during Saint-Andre's tenure as head-coach and he makes Joe Schmidt's side 'favourites' for Saturday's game in Paris.  

"You are of course the favourites but you never know, the Stade de France is always a tough place to play, two years ago you lost in France, we have some young kids and we're looking forward to this game.

"You are more organised and have a fantastic half-back partnership but for us we have to close the book on six years of very, very poor rugby. Our new generation is different in terms of skills compared to the last four years. I think we'll be back but we need to be patient, it'll take about 18-months to two years for us to be really back in the mix."

 

You can listen back to this evening's interview here.