France set to drop Kockott

Date published: February 15 2015

Coach Philippe Saint-André has hinted at changes to France's starting XV in the wake of Saturday's Six Nations loss to Ireland.

The Bleus boss said several players were below-par in the lost 18-11 to the defending Six Nations champions in Dublin with South African-born scrum-half Rory Kockott likely to be amongst those dropped for the clash against Wales in a fortnight.

Saint-André initially refused to name specific players and he gave a curt response when asked about Kockott's performance, but the introduction of Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra in the 66th minute transformed the French attack, with the only try of the game followinmg shortly afterwards.

"He can do better," commented Saint-André on Kockott's display.

"Morgan did well when he came on," added Saint-André when asked about the vastly-more experienced Parra, who was initailly left out of the French squad until injuries opened the door for his return.  

"In the first half we had trouble varying our play but Morgan's performance gives us options at scrum-half."

"If we played the rest of the match like we played the last 15 minutes, we would have won easily.

"But we really only played solid, confident rugby in the last 15 minutes, and that is not good enough."

Parra combined with club team-mate Camille Lopez, who didn't have his best game at  fly-half.

"Camille did some good things, though he is aware that his variety of play in the first half was not good," said Saint-André.

"It is fine to pass to Mathieu Bastareaud from time to time because he sucks in three players to bring him down.

"However, we needed to alternate our play, give it some variety and feed it down the backline or kick in behind the Irish backs.

"However, Camille is talented and he has qualities and one must remember he hasn't many caps (seven). This is the first time he has played abroad in the Six Nations.

"There are other players' performances which were worse, so stop picking on the fly-half."

The French coach was less inclinded to defend veteran lock Pascal Papé, whose sin-binning for kneeing Jamie Heaslip in the back robbed France of momentum in the second half.

"When you watch the images of the incident I don't think you can say it was deliberate," said Saint-André.

"However, I said to Pascal 'you received a yellow card just at the moment we were gaining the upper hand' (53rd minute) both physically and territorially as we were in their 22.

"Although we didn't concede many points it was still a pivotal moment.

"You expect something like that from an inexperienced player, not one with over 50 Tests under his belt. It was the worst possible moment for that to happen."

Under Saint-André, France have won just three away games in over three years but will hope to get their campaign back on track against Wales at the Stade de France as the build towards the World Cup later this year.

"Our defence was excellent, we had a 90 percent success rate there, and our scrum was very good against the Irish, much better than last year (when the Irish beat them 22-20 in Paris to win the title)," he said.

"We have got answers to several questions we posed ourselves before the game and, honestly, given the performance against the champions and a team ranked above us in the world, we are not that far behind them.

"However, in a few months we play them in our World Cup pool match and there we are obliged to win. There is not a lot of time left."