PSA cranks up the pressure on Wales
March 16, 2012
France have missed out on the Six Nations but can still prevent Wales from lifting it © Getty Images
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has turned up the pressure on Wales labeling them "big favourites" to complete the Grand Slam on Saturday.
Saint-Andre's team stand between Wales and their second championship crown and tournament clean sweep of his opposite number Warren Gatland's four-year reign. France blew their title hopes by drawing at home to Ireland and then seeing England secure a 24-22 victory in Paris last weekend.
And Saint-Andre has made five changes for the trip to Cardiff, while prolific try-scoring centre Wesley Fofana has been switched to the wing instead of an injured Vincent Clerc. "Wales have been playing super rugby since the World Cup," said Saint-Andre. "They are very confident and the big favourites for the Grand Slam.
"I've been very disappointed with our last couple of games. We have been in control of possession and territory, but one interception against Ireland and two turnovers against England left us with a draw and a loss.
"I am unhappy because it's not enough, but there is no pressure on us, the pressure is all on Wales."
Six Nations history suggests that France are unlikely to roll over tomorrow, given that on six previous visits to Cardiff in the competition they have won five times and lost once. That solitary defeat came in 2008 when a 29-12 Wales victory, secured by tries from Shane Williams and Martyn Williams, gave them the Grand Slam.
"It is more important for Wales to win than France," Saint-Andre added. "The Welsh team are very good, confident and young. We willl go out there simply to try to play our best game of the Six Nations.
"You represent your sport and your team, in Cardiff against a home side that has an opportunity for the Grand Slam and to get revenge for the World Cup semi-final (against France)."
France skipper Thierry Dusautoir said: "We have a new coach and a new system, but Wales have the same team as they had in the World Cup with the same staff. We can't win the Six Nations this year, but we want to validate all the work we've done over the last few weeks."
Saint-Andre, meanwhile, distanced himself over any furore behind France's request for the Millennium Stadium roof to be open tomorrow. Gatland would prefer the roof to be closed, especially given a weather forecast for rain, but both sides have to be in agreement for that to happen, under Six Nations tournament rules.
Gatland struggled to contain his frustration when asked about it yesterday, but Saint-Andre somewhat bizarrely claimed an open roof request was to do with the reception required for a new GPS tracking system used to monitor players.
"At the end of the day, there is a match to play," Saint-Andre said. "No matter whether it is raining or sunny, it's just a rugby match."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September