Battered Bleus await All Blacks

Date published: November 3 2013

Six of France's 30-man squad reported for duty unfit to train on Sunday ahead of their opening November Test against New Zealand.

Six of France's 30-man squad reported for duty unfit to train on Sunday ahead of their opening November Test against New Zealand.

With just six day to go before hosting the world champions at the Stade de France, head coach Philippe Saint-André has little time to call on reinforcements.

“Vincent Debaty has been sick all week, Yannick Nyanga has a torn ear, Jonathan Pelissié has an eye injury, for Rémi Talès has a suspected fractured nose, Camille Lopez has a sprained ankle and Wesley Fofana a foot sprain,” said Saint-André as his squad gathered at Orly airport.

“We'll see, we'll go to [headquarters at] Marcoussis, we will do proper check-ups and decisions will be made possible in the late evening or early morning tomorrow (Monday), in the knowledge that some players on the [replacement] list go to Hong Kong this evening (Sunday), so it will be fast,” he added.

Of the six players placed on the back-up list in case of injury, Racing Metro prop Eddy Ben Arous and wing Marc Andreu, Toulouse number eight Gillian Galan (who has a shoulder injury), are set to head to Hong Kong where their teams will compete in a friendly match on Saturday.

“Six, that's still less than the overall average…before the Italy game [during the Six Nations] there were twelve” said Saint-André with a wry smile, advocating “a positive attitude. ”

The French coaching staff will reduce the group 26 players on Tuesday with the final matchday 23 players to face the All Blacks set to be announced on Thursday.

Saint-André says the squad will take it easy during the week but has called on his team to give it their all in Saturday's clash.

“We must be very precise. First the players it must recover. We won't do much training so we must be as organised as possible an stay fresh,” said the coach.

“And Saturday, the heat is on! It is imperative we throw caution to the wind, play with a lot of aggression, be ultra-disciplined and be as bold as possible.

“We're going to take a positive attitude, enthusiasm to give it everything like crazies for 80 minutes. The statistics are not for us. The All Blacks, in their last 30 games, have 28 wins, one draw, one defeat, but we want to show that sometimes the statistics are not worth anything.

“The Tests last November yielded positive results for us. Beating Australia and Argentina was pretty good already, and this time round we are playing teams who are a level up from those and this is just what we want to compare ourselves and where we are against these types of teams.

“We are often good in November because the guys still have a lot of energy. These are exceptional Tests, a bonus for us and makes us happy to contest them.

“There are lots of people who criticise me for not being able to build a solid backbone to the team, that is hooker, number eight, half-backs and full-back.

“Well our first choice number eight (Louis) Picamoles is injured, the scrum-half Maxime Machenaud (hand) is injured, our fly-half Frederic Michalak has just returned from a long-term injury (shoulder), and our first-choice full-back Brice Dulin is also returning from injury (knee)…we make do with the means at our disposal and we try and make them perform accordingly.”