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Rugby | International Rugby

Philippe Saint-Andre © Gallo Images

‘French should follow English example’



French rugby should follow England's example when it comes to looking after their players and not overloading the schedule France rugby coach Philippe Saint-Andre told AFP.

The 45-year-old - who spent over eight years coaching in England - said that the lack of time allowed for giving the top players time to develop their skills had hindered and would continue to hinder the national side.

Saint-Andre - who filled the vacuum left by the unpredictable Marc Lievremont when he stepped down after the 2011 World Cup final defeat by the All Blacks - acknowledges that his task of landing the Six Nations title this season is already difficult with three away games.

However, he claimed that he would be more comforted had he felt that the players were arriving relatively fresh.

"We are going into the Six Nations on the back of four successive wins (the three November tests plus a win over Argentina on their summer tour)," said the 69-times capped former France wing and captain, who coached France to a fourth placed finish in his first Six Nations last year.

"However, the players were fresh then. I don't know in what state I will have them now after Top 14 games and the European Cup pool matches."

Saint-Andre, whose side begin their campaign against Italy in Rome next Sunday, said that there could be light at the end of the tunnel with important talks set to take place at the end of the season.

"We should do the same as in England as I know from working there," said the former Sale and Gloucester coach and sporting director.

"There they play between tests and club rugby about 30-32 matches. Here we play around 40. There are some very very important negotiations regarding this problem due in June between the league authorities, the federation and the players.

"We need to look after the players. It's not so much about rest as development. In England they have five weeks off, four for holiday and one for development. In France our guys have four weeks holidays and then it is straight back into friendly matches and then the Top 14 starts."

Saint-Andre, who also coached two French sides in Bourgoin and Toulon, admitted to being angry when he met with his fellow Six Nations coaches at the tournament launch last Wednesday because they already knew the state of play regarding their players whilst he had to wait till after Friday's Top 14 games to know who was fit.

As a result of that he lost both promising fullback Brice Dulin and leading try-scorer Vincent Clerc to injury.

"I have the impression that when we prepare for tournaments, others are competing in the 100 metres and we are in the 110m hurdles," he said.

"We are the only country involved in the tournament who had a league programme on Friday and Thursday whilst the English have been together since last Sunday like the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish and even the Italians."

Saint-Andre, fondly known as 'Le Goret' (piglet) since being called that by friends for his style in playing tennis with his head down to the ground as a boy, added, though, he wasn't advocating French rugby become totally anglicised.

"I may have learnt about coaching from my days in England, and have spent over eight of the 12 years I have been a coach in English rugby but I am still French!!"

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