French flair still there – Saint-Andre

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre insisted Wednesday his side would play ‘open rugby’ in the upcoming Six Nations, saying a kicking game alone could not triumph at this year’s World Cup in England.

There have been concerns that French club rugby is becoming an increasingly power-based game.

But Saint-Andre, speaking at the Six Nations launch in London on Wednesday, said traditional French rugby virtues remained intact.

“On the video clip they didn’t show one try of the French rugby team so we’ll try to be focused this Six Nations to score some tries and then next year on the video they will show at least one try of the French team,” Saint-Andre jokingly told reporters.

However, France started last year’s Six Nations with a thrilling 26-24 win over England in Paris capped by a last-ditch try from replacement back Gael Fickou.

“If you remember against England, the last try in the 78th minute, we keep the ball for two minutes-and-a half, a fantastic offload and a good try,” said former France captain Saint-Andre.

“There is still some French flair in this squad,” added Saint-Andre.

France won two of their three Tests in November, beating Fiji and Australia before losing to Argentina.

“We scored a lot of tries in November,” said Saint-Andre.

“Our target is to still play an open game. The young players like to have the ball in their hands.

“We feel also if we want to win the World Cup, it’s impossible just to kick the ball and just to be defensive.”

France last won the Six Nations, with a Grand Slam, in 2010, but their recent record has been poor, finishing fourth, last and fourth in the past three seasons.

But in five-times capped Clermont fly-half Camille Lopez, Saint-Andre believes he has found a quality playmaker.

Half-back combinations have come and gone with alarming frequency since Saint-Andre took over after France lost the 2011 World Cup final to New Zealand with Sebastien Tillous-Borde and Lopes the 13th starting combination used by the coach.

“Cammy is a fantastic footballer. We picked him in New Zealand two years ago but afterwards he injured his cruciate knee ligament and was out for six months,” said Saint-Andre.

“He’s back, he’s doing a fantastic job for Clermont Ferrand and he did a good job for us in November.

“We believe he can carry us forward in the Six Nations.”

– Goal-kicking –

Meanwhile, Saint-Andre said it was vital France improved their goal-kicking success rate.

They started their final match of the 2014 Six Nations with an outside chance of taking the title but a narrow 22-20 loss at home to eventual champions Ireland saw them finish fourth instead.

“Last year we missed a penalty against Ireland — the difference between finishing first and fourth,” Saint-Andre said ahead of France’s 2015 Six Nations opener against Scotland in Paris on February 7.

“We need to improve our goal-kicking percentage. Last year it was 68 percent and if it had been 85 we would have won three games more.

“We need to improve on that for the Six Nations and for the World Cup.”

Asked what supporters could expect from an often unpredictable France side, Saint-Andre said, to a chorus of laughter: “You don’t know. To be honest, I don’t know.

“For us it’s a big year, as it is for all the other countries.

“We have to be focused for the first game against Scotland at the Stade de France. The first game sets the tempo for the competition.

“We respect all the teams but we are not scared of any team. The confidence is back, we had some good games in November.”

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