Six Nations 2014: France v England - Philippe Saint-André backs Jules Plisson to lift the pressure

Coach insists the French rugby public is understanding of his and the team’s predicament

For Philippe Saint-André it is all about the main course, pushing aside the starter and going straight for the beef, red raw beef if the line-up the French coach has chosen for this evening in Paris is anything to go on. Saint-André expects a battle, Stuart Lancaster expects a battle, every man and their chien expects a battle.

“We start with the main course, Les Rosbifs straight away,” said Saint-André when naming his side, a match-day squad heavy on bruisers with six of the eight places on the bench taken by forwards. This is a crunch fixture for a coach who has yet to convince the French public that his tenure will take Les Bleus to unexplored heights come the 2015 World Cup.

That gathering across the Channel next year was Saint-André’s goal when he was appointed at the end of 2011, but two poor Six Nations campaigns, including last year’s embarrassing collection of the wooden spoon, have increased the need for the short-term fillip of an immediate victory, one for the here and now.

Saint-André insists the French rugby public is understanding of his and the team’s predicament – the injuries, the building for 2015 and the problems presented by the Top 14’s import of enough foreigners to start a legion – but he accepts that patience is finite.

“This match is huge for us because we need to start the Six Nations with a win,” said Saint-André. “England performed well last year, while 2013 was very, very disappointing for us. But we knew it would be difficult with so many new players.

“The French public love the French team. They understand. But they also want success, so it’s time for us to win some games. And we always say, ‘If you beat England then your international season is not so bad.’ So it’s huge for us.”

It is huge for Saint-André in particular. He has three wins from 10 games in the Six Nations, and oversaw only two wins in the whole of 2013. France’s recent record against England reads little better; they have lost their last three and have only a solitary win in seven meetings.

If that is to be rewritten then it will need his selection to come off not only up front but even more so with his new half-back pairing of Jules Plisson at 10 and Jean-Marc Doussain at nine. It is the 10th different combination Saint-André has sent out during his two-year incumbency.

Plisson, an adept dropper of goals, has long been identified as a future international, having played for France at Under-18, -19 and -20 levels. Yet the full house was not expected to arrive quite so quickly for a 22-year-old who has played only 985 minutes of top-flight rugby.

With Rémi Talès and Camille Lopez injured, Saint-André was not blessed with options, although he could have played François Trinh-Duc, who shone against England last season. But, like Lancaster’s similarly callow selection, he has gone on form and Plisson is playing the best of the fit French 10s in the Top 14, indeed his Stade Français side head the table. The South African Morne Steyn was expected to play the pivotal role for Stade this season but Plisson, unlike a number of his compatriots across the league, has kept the incomer out.

“Jules has a lot of variety in his game, he had to start one day,” said Saint-André. “Everything will be easier for him if his team-mates make an impact going forward, if the forwards win their battles. So it’s up to our pack to make things easier for our halves pairing, which is young and talented. Plisson is one of, if not the best fly-half in the French league at the moment so why would I be scared to pick a young player?”

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

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

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave