France hope to avoid late Six Nations injury scares

23 Jan 2013 14:47:02

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France face an anxious wait to discover if any of their leading players will be late withdrawals from next weekend's opening round of the Six Nations Championship.

Unlike most of their European rivals, France's top players will be involved in domestic league action on Thursday and Friday and so run the risk of an injury that could rule them out of their Six Nations opener away to Italy on February 3.

By contrast, England's squad are already in a training camp and their star names will not be involved in club matches this weekend.

"We are still waiting for Saturday, because there is the French league Thursday and Friday, so we just cross our fingers that we won't have too many injuries," said France coach Philippe Saint-Andre, speaking at the Six Nations launch in London on Wednesday.

"We need to be as focused as possible with the few days (training) we have," the former France captain added.

"The Six Nations is a fantastic event and it looks as if you run 100 metres but we start 10 metres behind (the other teams). So you need to run 110 metres.

"We just need to look after our best 33, 34 players like England do," said Saint-Andre, who coached in England with Gloucester and Sale.

However, he added this had been a refrain of his predecessors as France coach.

"Bernard Laporte was saying the same thing, Marc Lievremont was saying the same thing. For me, I just hope the next coach after me will say 'everything is in place'."

France, who finished fourth in last season's Six Nations, go into the tournament as one of the favourites after an impressive end-of-year series saw them finish 2012 with three successive home wins including an impressive 33-6 victory over Australia in Paris in November.

In all, France have won their last four Tests -- a run that includes an away success against Argentina.

However, a wary Saint-Andre said: "We know the big problem of French rugby is to be consistent.

"On our best day we can beat the best in the world, on our worst we can lose to anyone. It's a big step this Six Nations because we have three away games.

"We did well in the autumn but we were at home. This year is big, we are trying to show how tough we can be mentally and physically away from home."

And he warned a trip to Rome would be no easy opener for his side.

"The French team lost two years ago against Italy and it was a big tsunami but Italy are a very good team and they were very unlucky to lose against Australia in November.

"They are very well organised and we need to be very careful."

A feature of France's recent victories has been the form of recalled fly-half Frederic Michalak.

"He has a lot of flair and experience," said Saint-Andre. "He's playing at scrum-half for Toulon but I pick him at fly-half at France.

"But with Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon, Brock James, Luke McAlister (all foreigners playing at fly-half for French clubs) you have to find a fly-half.

"A fly-half is like a good French wine. The older you are, the better you are. He (Michalak) is a dad also and I think his view of rugby now is totally different. We also have Francois Trinh-Duc."

Meanwhile, Saint-Andre insisted England, who in December defeated world champions New Zealand 38-21, and not France were the favourites to win this year's Six Nations.

"England, with their performance against New Zealand and three home games, they are the favourites. We are outsiders but the French like to be outsiders."

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