Lievremont calls in reinforcements
February 24, 2009
Wales boss Warren Gatland has expressed his sympathy for France boss Marc Lievremont as their sides prepare to face-off in a vital Six Nations match at the Stade de France on Friday night.
Gatland enjoyed full week of training with his side last week before they were granted the weekend off to rest, while Lievremont was forced to watch through his fingers as his top players were all involved in a bruising round of Top 14 action.
The main casualty of the weekend was Stade Francais fly-half Lionel Beauxis, out with a pelvic injury picked up during the win over Toulon, whose place in the squad has been taken by Montpellier fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc. Uncapped Stade Francais centre Mathieu Bastareaud has also been called in to the squad after Perpignan's Maxime Mermoz was ruled out with a hamstring injury following their loss to Bayonne.
"It is going to be interesting to see how they (French players) are managed over the next couple of days in terms of recovery," said Gatland. "It is going to be difficult for them to do a hell of a lot before Friday night's game. We trained Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week, and then the players had the weekend off.
"There is no denying the fact our preparation going into this game is a hell of a lot better. I would rather be in my shoes at the moment than Marc Lievremont's, because it has made his preparation difficult. Sometimes that sort of thing galvanises a team, though, and we've got to be aware of that.
"But you have got to feel sorry for Marc Lievremont and the French side in terms of their preparation. You are going to struggle to do much before Wednesday. We know how tough it will be for them with a short turnaround for many of their players who have featured in domestic rugby last weekend.
"We had a similar experience ourselves in between the Scotland and England Six Nations games (a six-day gap) and found it hard going, so that is something we must try to take advantage of."
Gatland has been able to recall his talismanic winger Shane Williams to the starting line-up after he missed Wales' 23-15 win over England with an ankle injury, while there is also a notable return on the bench as Gavin Henson makes his return to the international stage for the first time since helping Wales to a grand slam victory over France in March last year.
Centre Henson has not played a competitive game since the Ospreys' Heineken Cup win over Leicester on January 24.
"What I wanted with Gavin was for him to be involved with us in training last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday," said Gatland. "If you talk to the players in terms of what they go through on the training pitch, they are not lengthy sessions, but they are pretty intensive.
"Players are put under a lot of pressure and we try to simulate game situations as much as we can. We just needed two or three days for us to see where Gavin was in terms of fitness, sharpness and skill level. He trained really well."