France play down title hopes
March 9, 2008
France captain Lionel Nallet preferred to dwell on his team's victory over Italy rather than the prospect of registering a heavy win against Wales next weekend to retain the RBS 6 Nations Championship title.
Les Bleus kept the tournament alive with a 25-13 victory over the Italians in Paris today, but will need to see off unbeaten Wales by at least 20 points to claim their third Six Nations crown in succession.
Nallet knows it will be a tough test for his side in the all-or-nothing match at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium next Saturday, but he was just happy to have got back to winning ways after the 24-13 defeat by England a fortnight ago.
''It is clear that it is going to be tricky against Wales, but today we are just happy to have beaten Italy,'' said the Castres lock.
''They have shown over the years that they are getting harder and harder to beat.
''So we are happy with the win and also to have recovered from our defeat to England.''
France scored three tries, through Anthony Floch, Yannick Jauzion and Aurelien Rougerie, while recalled scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili kicked 10 points.
But they failed to fully put away an Italy side who have always struggled in these Six Nations transalpine clashes.
With Les Bleus head coach Marc Lievremont having made nine changes to his starting line-up and still introducing more and more new faces - five made their debuts today - that was maybe to be expected.
But Lievremont was happy overall, adding: ''We are pleased to have won.
''It is a fortnight after the England defeat, which was an enormous failure for us, so we have waited for this and given a lot of attention to this match.
''We knew it was going to be extremely difficult as they had lost three games and did not want to lose a fourth.
''But we were better in the set-piece, although we missed a lot of line-outs, and we found what we needed to win and create the opportunities to get through their defence.
''We made a few errors, but overall it is positive.''
Lievremont refused to give anything away about his potential squad selection for next weekend, saying: ''We will have to see how certain players recover from the game against Italy before we think about the Wales game.
''We will have to think about whether we make changes. We want to keep the continuity going, but we are looking to create a great exploit in Cardiff.''
Nick Mallett is still looking for his first win in charge of the Azzurri, with the team having lost four on the spin in this year's Six Nations.
But Italy were a different side to the one that lost 47-8 to Wales a fortnight ago.
Their defence was a lot more solid but they still lack a cutting edge in the backs, a problem that has plagued Azzurri sides down the years.
Mallett, who saw prop Martin Castrogiovanni score his team's only try and Andrea Marcato kick eight points, said: ''We are working with the material we have.
''In some positions, we don't have the likes of Rougerie or (Julien) Malzieu, or (New Zealand winger Joe) Rokocoko.
''That's why we don't score tries. If we did, we would. The players I have are giving the best they can.''
He added: ''We had a few problems but we created three or four good chances.
''We enjoyed an excellent end to the game and I am happy with how we played. Individual errors cost us today.''
With Italy having played Wales and France away in their last two games, Mallett is in a good position to judge the two sides' relative merits ahead of next weekend's title decider.
''Obviously, with Wales at home, they are going to start as favourites,'' he said.
''But I think it's going to be a great game.''
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Top 14, Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership with fireworks and monsters both featuring
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14