France wing Vincent Clerc is closing in on France's try-scoring record but is focussed solely on beating England on Saturday.
France wing Vincent Clerc is closing in on France's try-scoring record but admits he is focussed solely on turning round his country's Six Nations campaign by beating England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The 31-year-old – scorer of 34 tries in his 64 tests while former Les Bleus full-back Serge Blanco scored 38 in 93 tests – is set to return to the starting line-up after missing the first two games, an away defeat to Italy and a home loss to Wales.
While France are nervously looking at the possibility of their first wooden spoon since 1999, England have two wins from two and are on course for the Grand Slam.
However, Clerc is determined to ruin England's hopes at Twickenham and set the record straight after they inflicted a painful defeat on him.
“England is a team that I have rarely beaten and I am desperate to do so,” said Clerc, who has won two Grand Slams with France in 2004 and 2010.
“I am hungry for us to win the duels against them. They deprived me of appearing in the 2007 World Cup final by beating us in the semis (at the Stade de France).”
Clerc, who did end up playing in the 2011 World Cup final defeat by the All Blacks, said that his return could add some much-needed experience to a team that had seemed to lack leadership in the first two games.
“The goal for me is to bring my enthusiasm and experience to the team,” he added.
“After that there are the leaders on the pitch, there doesn't have to be a cacophony of noise on the pitch. But if I feel the need to talk, to bring something up, I will do it without hesitating.”
Clerc, leading try-scorer in the 2007 World Cup with five and joint-top try-scorer in the 2011 edition with England wing Chris Ashton with six, said it had not been a happy experience watching France's two previous games so far from the sidelines.
“I was a little sad, frustrated,” he revealed.
“It is difficult to live that experience from the outside, to not be an actor, to be powerless.
“You see how fragile the balance and the confidence are.”
Clerc, who has won three Heineken Cups and three Top 14 titles with Toulouse, said that the French must adopt a more patient and less hurried approach against England especially when they get inside their opponents' 22.
“There have been times this season that we have passed the ball wildly when we have been under pressure,” he said.
“Maybe that was because we also were too eager to finish the move too quickly.
“It is imperative we find the necessary patience. In England we have to score practically every time we have a chance if we want to have a hope of winning.”
As regards the try record held by Blanco, Clerc was relaxed about eventually beating it.
“This record is something for the journalists to enjoy writing about,” he said.
“But if I beat it one day I will be very proud of doing so. It will give me pleasure too in my old age.”