Saint-Andre urges French team to 'have a go'
Philippe Saint-Andre has challenged his new-look, largely inexperienced lineup to embrace the challenge they face as they seek to avoid a three-test clean sweep at the hands of the All Blacks on Saturday night in New Plymouth.
Saint-Andre today announced a starting XV featuring eight changes to the side dismantled 30-0 by the New Zealanders in Christchurch.
He urged his young team to "have a go" in their final crack at the world's best team in their own backyard.
"It's the first time since 1968 we have played three tests consecutively against the best team in the world, and we know the New Zealand team the more they are together the better they are. For this week we bring a lot of guys with few caps and the All Blacks bring back a few guys with [many] caps.
"It will be a fantastic challenge for our players. They need to have a go, they need to be scared to play, to respect New Zealand but don't respect them too much.
"It's the last game of a long, long season and we need to just be proud to wear this French jersey and try to do everything to win the game."
Two of the changes were injury-enforced, with veteran first five-eighth Frederic Michalak (dislocated shoulder) and in-form No 8 Louis Picamoles (hip contusion) already back in France in the wake of the second test in Christchurch.
But Saint-Andre said today he was keen to introduce an element of "freshness" as he rung the changes after the comprehensive defeat at AMI Stadium.
In the pack, 18-test Clermont hooker Benjamin Kayser replaces Dimitri Szarzewski, 23-year-old Stade Francais lock Alexandre Flanquart slots into the second row to earn his second cap at the expense of Christophe Samson, while South African-born Castres No 8 Antonie Claassen (three tests) and Clermont blindside flanker Damien Chouly (nine) come into a revamped loose trio.
Saint-Andre has also gone for a new-look halves combination with just three caps between them in the form of Toulouse halfback Jean-Marc Doussain and Castres first five Remi Tales.
The Castres pair of Marc Andreu and Brice Dulin, with six tests apiece, also come into a rejigged back three alongside left wing Yoann Huget. Maxime Medard and Adrien Plante drop out of the 23 altogether.
"We have just tried to bring in guys who are fresh and some guys deserve it because they played well against the Blues," added Saint-Andre. "Also some are fresh physically and mentally so we try to keep some experience with key players and bring some players who can add a lot of activity and urgency."
The French coach said the training week had started light in the wake of a tough Christchurch test, but he felt there had been enough positives to cling on to as they stepped things up closer to the test.
"The guys didn't give up, they gave 100 per cent, but we still failed and lost heavily and we're very disappointed it was 30 points. We looked to bring a squad back together to get a positive attitude and just try to control things that didn't work last week. And try to be better.
"Each time we give easy ball to the All Blacks they punish us. We'll try to give them the least ball possible and also try to improve our kicking game and our lineout. We had 27 lineouts last week, and that's a lot in international rugby. But we lost seven balls."
Even with the series lost and the curtain about to come down on a long and exacting season for his players, Saint-Andre said there was no excuse for a lack of motivation this week.
"You play for the French team, you just play 11 games in the year and for some guys it's a great opportunity first to have a go against the best team in the world and second to show they can be first choice for tests in November and for the next two years and for the World Cup.
"We have guys with experience like [captain] Thierry Dusautoir and [prop] Nicolas Mas, and we bring in some guys who have done well in the French league and they get to show they can compete against the best team.
"It's a new scrumhalf-flyhalf, but they have the opportunity to show they can be there for a few years.
"When you play for the French team and have the opportunity you must give 150 per cent. It's what we expect from the guys this week."
Judging by the way things went in Christchurch, they may need it.
France: Brice Dulin, Marc Andreu, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget, Remi Tales, Jean-Marc Doussain; Antonie Claassen, Damien Chouly, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Yoann Maestri, Alexandre Flanquart, Nicolas Mas, Benjamin Kayser, Thomas Domingo. Reserves: Dimitri Szarzewski, Eddy Ben Arous, Luc Ducalcon, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Bernard Le Roux, Maxime Machenaud, Camille Lopez, Mathieu Bastareaud.