Six Nations: France head back to basics as Thierry Dusautoir leads rapid rebuild

 

The hotel chosen by France for their London base sits on the crest of Richmond Hill, looking down across the Thames to Twickenham. There was nothing aloof about yesterday's gathering to address the challenge that lies ahead on the other side of the river this evening, instead it was all about elevating England higher than a Joe Launchbury lineout leap.

"Very impressive," said captain Thierry Dusautoir of his side's opponents recent performances. Yannick Bru, a former Grand Slam winner and now part of Philippe Saint-André's coaching staff was even more effusive, labelling them the "team which dominates Europe". It is all a far cry from France's last visit to Twickenham two years ago when Marc Lièvremont called his men to arms with the assertion that they, and everyone else in the Six Nations from Rome to Edinburgh via Cardiff and Dublin disliked the English.

France lost that day, as they have on all but one of their Six Nations outings to London, and Lièvremont is long gone. But not before he enjoyed one last hurrah over his old foe by knocking them out of the 2011 World Cup. That was the catalyst for regime change in both camps with Stuart Lancaster and Saint-André installed to oversee long-term projects through to the next global gathering.

So far so very good for Lancaster but for Saint-André the drawing board has been brought out again. This, like all sporting projects, is still results-driven. Nearly half the side that began against Wales has gone. Yesterday Dusautoir rejected suggestions that France could draw parallels with what happened in New Zealand, when England were once again strong favourites against a Les Bleus side perceived to be in a state of disarray.

"It is different to 2011," he said. "It is a new team, a very different team and a young team. In the World Cup we had more experience."

Instead the focus is inwards. There is an acknowledgement of where England are, emphatically occupying the higher ground, and that has meant France, following their worst start to the tournament in more than 30 years, deciding to concentrate on sorting themselves out before they begin to try and sort out the English.

Words like "collective", "work" and "intensity" have been the stock phrases of the week. "We have just focused on our own game-plan because in the last two games we made so many bad choices in our attacking plan," said Bru. "We haven't focused on the English team, we [have] just tried to improve our team, look to our strengths. We lost so many opportunities in the first two games.

"We have to concentrate on ourselves, our strengths, our qualities, before looking at the opposition. If we had taken our opportunities we would have had at least one victory coming to Twickenham. That was the focus in training this week. It will be a very good test for the mentality and character of the team – what the guys have in their stomach. It will be a very tough test to play at Twickenham – against this English team which dominates Europe at the moment. We will see the character of the guys."

Bru brushed off suggestions that France might struggle to combat England's physicality but the French were also keen to caution against widely-held expectations of a bruising confrontation. We are, the message went, still capable of playing rugby.

"We are physical too. Mathieu Bastareaud is not very weak is he?" said Bru. "We will concentrate on our qualities – it would be a big mistake to focus on Manu Tuilagi or Courtney Lawes or Dylan Hartley – the English team is very skilled. We will try to do our best – simple."

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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links