Saint-Andre slams French ‘starlets’

Date published: March 2 2015

An emotional France coach Philippe Saint-André has launched a scathing attack on his own players following Saturday's lackluster 20-13 defeat to Wales in the Six Nations.

An irate Saint-André raised his voice several times during a passionate news conference, labelling his team as "the Father Christmas of international rugby" because they give away so many points.

PSA's public defence of his under-performing players has been a hallmark of his time at the helm, but his tone changed over the weekend. His voice trembling with emotion, Saint-André looked on the verge of tears Sunday as he made it clear he feels extremely let down.

"International rugby is about combat, humility. But above all it's a collective sport. We don't need starlets," he said.

"In rugby, the team is the star and we need champions. Yesterday, I didn't see any champions, or not many."

Saint-André hinted that he is likely to make sweeping changes for the game against Italy in a fortnight.

Asked if some players are now playing for their futures, six months ahead of the World Cup, Saint-André replied with an emphatic "yes" – although he stopped short of saying some would never play for France again under his leadership.

"I only want players who are ready to go to the end of the world. If anyone thinks that international rugby is too difficult, then they have my telephone number," he said.

"They can call me and I'll take someone else. I'll even take a 20-year-old lad who's never played in the Top 14 before."

Saint-André's habit of constantly tinkering with the side has not helped instill continuity but he insisted his players should take more responsibility and show more pride.

"I've covered and supported them for three years. At some stage you need to know how to win games at the highest level," he said.

"The French jersey should not only be something you're proud of but also something that enables you to surpass yourself. You need to be a gladiator.

"We've lost four in a row to the Welsh, this has to stop. We have guys who started playing (regularly) three years ago and now have 30 caps. It's time to stop hiding.

"At some point you have to ask the right questions. We're at our level, that's the truth," he said.

"It takes the Welsh 30 seconds to score three points and it takes us four minutes. We're the Father Christmas of international rugby and that's what I told the players."

However, Saint-André is no mood to quit.

"I've never abandoned ship, whether as a player, as a captain or as a manager. I've been given a role: to prepare this team for the World Cup," he said.

"I'll fight every day to do that."

Fly-half Camille Lopez was particularly poor against Wales, missing two of his four penalty kicks – and Yoann Huget's first-half try was ruled out because of Lopez's careless forward pass.

"For my part, I don't think I played badly," said a defiant Lopez.

"I tried different things … Let's keep on daring."

Next up is a tricky away match in Italy followed by a full-blooded showdown with England at Twickenham.