Sebastien Chabal admits France's preparations for today's Six Nations match against transalpine rivals Italy have been far from serene.
Aside from the hard-fought victory over Wales on match-day three, it has been a tournament to forget for the French, who are by no means guaranteed two points against the fired-up Italians at the Stadio Flaminio. The wind has been completely knocked out of Les Bleus' sails following the panning they received in the aftermath of their 34-10 defeat to England last Sunday.
Frowns have replaced the smiles and Chabal does not hide the fact that France are struggling to be positive. "There remains one match left to play but it will be difficult, having seen our last display," said the Sale forward, who will be back in the second row tomorrow after the experiment of playing him as a flanker against England. "It hasn't been an easy week. We haven't been speaking much and it hasn't been as happy as normal. We must focus on Italy but [the England game] is still there. You need time to digest a result like that."
France's coach, Marc Lièvremont, is back under pressure but was this week given a vote of confidence by Pierre Camou, the French Rugby Federation president. The players have also taken some stick, especially Chabal, who was left for dead by Riki Flutey for the first England try. The 31-year-old admits it was not his best game but reckons the media has been too critical. "I don't think I deserve everything that has been written," he said. "People have a go at me for all the tries conceded by the French team."
Italy are solid up front but lack nous behind the scrum and are facing a clean sweep of defeats in this tournament. They showed some improvement last week when they ran a second-string Wales team close in Rome.
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