Saint-André baffled by the judgement of Joubert

 

Twickenham

When Philippe Saint-André said France "lost their lucidity and precision after 60 minutes and with it the game," he was in part criticising himself: the coach made his key substitution decisions either side of the hour mark, and they all went wonky on him. "I expected more from the players I sent on," he admitted. "That is true."

But Saint-André said other things, some in public and others in private, that opened up a whole new front in the whys and wherefores debate. He made it abundantly clear that the French lost something else during the course of events at Twickenham: namely, the last vestiges of their faith in Craig Joubert, the South African referee.

It was Joubert who left Les Bleus, then coached by Marc Lièvremont, in a state of advanced apoplexy over his handling of the World Cup final against New Zealand in November 2011. It was Joubert who flummoxed them with his decisions during the Six Nations match with Wales in Cardiff last season – a game the home side just about won, thereby completing a Grand Slam into the bargain. His performance on Saturday – not just his misreading of the confusing events leading to England's vital second-half try but also his general view of who was doing what to whom at scrum and breakdown – infuriated the Tricolores once more.

"We were penalised a lot, a lot, a lot," Saint-André complained, "and I don't know why. You have only to look at the way the England try was scored. I don't understand how a referee could accept it. If he didn't see exactly what happened, there are two touch judges on the line for him to consult. And in the tackle area? There were things that confused me. We had guys on the field who were fantastic at contesting the ball, but sometimes you are left wondering whether you need such people if they are not allowed to do what they are good at doing."

Saint-André could not say whether he would discuss Joubert's refereeing with the International Rugby Board. "I don't want people to think I am making excuses, so it is better to raise issues when you are winning," he said. "While we played well and were competitive for three-quarters of the game, we still lost and that is our fault – my fault. But it is frustrating to leave here not knowing why some things were decided in the way they were."

Joubert was not entirely one-sided in his miscalculations: he moved in mysterious ways throughout the encounter, performing very few wonders in the process. But even the England camp conceded they were lucky to see Tuilagi's try ratified and as the French were at their usual disadvantage on the language front – shamefully, few international officials show the slightest inclination to discuss matters with them in their own tongue – it was difficult not to sympathise with Saint-André.

 



There was another concern for the coach. Not for the first time of late, he bemoaned the ever-increasing volume of overseas players holding down starting places in the domestic Top 14 league. "We have very few outside-halves as it is, and now Jonathan Sexton [the Ireland No 10] and three or four others are coming to France," he said. "We have to be very careful with our league. We have to leave a little space for some French players."

It was a waspish comment from a coach in a waspish mood. Saint-André, a familiar figure to followers of English club rugby after productive spells with Gloucester and Sale, quietly acknowledged that his charges had performed at far higher levels than in their recent defeats by Italy and France, but that fact did not even begin to lighten his gloom. As one respected chronicler of the French game said as the coach headed for the door: "It is not appropriate to throw confetti at the cemetery gate."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness