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Saint-Andre unveils backroom rugby staff

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France’s new coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Friday unveiled his backroom staff, naming fellow former players Yannick Bru and Patrice Lagisquet as his assistants.

“As we have very little time, I preferred to tighten up the staff in full knowledge that it could change over the coming four years,” said Saint-Andre in his first official press conference since being named as successor to Marc Lievremont.

Saint-Andre, who previously coached Toulon, Sale and Gloucester, starts his international coaching career against Italy at the Stade de France in a Six Nations clash on February 4.

As expected, ex-Toulouse hooker Bru takes the forwards coaching role with Lagisquet leaving Biarritz to oversee the backs.

Antoine Marin will replace Jo Maso as team manager, the latter taking over as head of the selection committee after 16 years in his previous role.

Saint-Andre said he could call up other specialist coaches, notably in the build-up to the next World Cup in England in 2015.

But the former France winger hinted that David Ellis’ services as a defence coach would not be called upon since both he and Lagisquet would fulfill that role.

Saint-Andre, capped 68 times, takes over the head coach’s role from Lievremont, who overcame an apparent split between staff and players to lead his team to the final of this year’s World Cup, which they lost 8-7 to hosts New Zealand.

And Saint-Andre insisted that he wanted his team to play more regularly against the southern hemisphere powers.

“I would love to have three or four Tests in November and play every year against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia,” he said.

“We are a great rugby nation. We’ve made the World Cup final three times (1987, 2003, 2011) but we’ve never got our hands on the trophy.

“To play three countries back to back in November helps prepare players to their best, their speed of execution and putting together a string of high-level matches.”

An initial 30-man squad will be named on January 5, with a three-day camp planned for January 23-25, before it is cut to 23 on January 26 ahead of the opening Six Nations game.

After the end of the Six Nations, which culminates in Cardiff against Wales on March 17, France travel to Argentina for two Tests on June 16 and 23.

Saint-Andre also confirmed that Thierry Dusautoir, one of the stand-out players at the World Cup and deservedly man-of-the-match in the final, would continue as captain of the team.

“The captain will be the same because of what he did as the world’s best player, for his charisma, for being a leader in a World Cup where things were complicated and his ability to bring together all the players behind him,” he said.

“We will rely heavily on the experienced players.

“What is exceptional is that not one player announced his retirement after the World Cup. So everyone is ready for selection.

“We will watch all the matches up until January 5. We’ve made a list of 60-70 players who we’ll follow in all their games.”

Saint-Andre added: “We had one of the oldest France teams, with an average age of 29 years and 10 months.

“We know that there are some players who are 33, 34 or 35 years old who will not be there at the next World Cup.

“We’ll try to build up a good base of players who we think have the necessary qualities to be tomorrow’s great players.”

Signature : Simon Valmary MARCOUSSIS, France (AFP)

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