Rugby Union


A defeat, not a draw, says Saint-Andre

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said the 17-17 draw with Ireland, which dashed the hosts' hopes of the Six Nations Grand Slam, felt more like a defeat.

The 44-year-old, who replaced Marc Lievremont after the 8-7 World Cup final defeat by the All Blacks, praised his side's spirit in coming back from a 17-6 half-time deficit but could not hide his disappointment overall.

"It feels in the changing room more like a defeat than a draw," said the former France captain, who had guided them to wins against Italy and Scotland.

"I cannot praise my team's valour in coming back from the 17-6 deficit but you cannot give sides of the calibre of Ireland a lead like that and hope to win."

Saint-Andre, who narrowly lost out to Lievremont to replace Bernard Laporte in 2007, said that it was really for him a game of two halves.

"In the first-half one can say that the bottle was half-empty and the second it was half-full," he said.


"Having said that I felt we dominated the game in terms of possession and it was only an intercepted try and a well-worked one when we lost the ball in the Irish 22 that saw us behind.

"However their second try right on half-time came after we had been in their half for 10 minutes and I felt that we were getting the upper hand."

France captain Thierry Dusautoir said the French performance had not been affected by the fact they were playing the game three weeks later than planned after the first match was called-off at the last minute due to freezing weather.

"I don't think it was affected either one way or the other," said the Ivory Coast-born flanker.

"I felt we had the initiative and that we tried more things than we had in our previous two matches.

"However, one strategic mistake (Tommy Bowe's intercepted try from a pass by Aurelien Rougerie deep in French territory) and a try from a turnover is why we are so disappointed. It was ours to win."

Dusautoir, who was named world player of the year after a superb World Cup, admitted that the French habit of starting slowly was becoming hard to shake off.

"We are aware of this and we have been working on it for some time now," said Dusautoir, whose side had to rally from a 10-0 deficit against Scotland last Sunday to win 23-17.

The Irish camp were equally deflated, not even the knowledge that they had gained a measure of revenge for the two sides' 15-15 draw in 1985 in Dublin that prevented the hosts from winning the then Five Nations Grand Slam would suffice.

"If you're not disappointed by this then you shouldn't be in the game," said Ireland coach Declan Kidney.

"I'm disappointed for the lads really as they put in a huge effort. We believe in ourselves and the manner in which we play so we didn't go out there and try anythiong new and pay for it by giving up silly points.

"However, we did turn the ball over several times in the second-half and that we should improve on because it is costly.

"Also the French were more aggressive in the second-half and deployed their 'ball up the jumper' tactics."

Irish captain Paul O'Connell was left still waiting for a first ever win in Paris at his sixth attempt.

"This is an opportunity lost," said the Munster lock.

"We were very disappointed with the second-half performance. We turned the ball over too many times and conceded six penalties to one. There is a feeling of frustration amongst us."