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Saint-Andre has faith in 'good French wine' Michalak
ESPN Staff
January 23, 2013
Philippe Saint-Andre labels England favourites
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Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: France

France boss Philippe Saint-Andre has backed Frederic Michalak to deliver at fly-half for his side in the forthcoming Six Nations despite having played much of the season at scrum-half.

Michalak was in the international wilderness while Marc Lievremont was in charge of the French side but he has flourished under Saint-Andre. The French coach picked the mercurial half-back in all three of their autumn Tests, where his side won all three, and Michalak looks set to keep the No.10 shirt for the Six Nations despite having played most of his rugby for club side Toulon at scrum-half.

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

Saint-Andre has opted for Stade Francais' second-row Pascal Pape to skipper France into the tournament while their usual captain Thierry Dusautoir battles back to full fitness. Pape took on the role during the autumn series and coped well with the responsibility.

France's Frederic Michalak slots a penalty, France v Argentina, Lille-Grand-Stade, Lille, France, November 17, 2012
Frederic Michalak started all three of France's autumn Tests © Getty Images
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"We won three games consecutively (in November) and Thierry Dusautoir was still injured a few weeks ago with his knee, so I think it was very important to carry on with Pascal as captain," Saint-Andre added. "This also gives Thierry the time to come back and to be 100 per cent and focus on himself and get back into the team.

"I think with Pascal, what you see is what you get. He gelled very well with the young players, the young players respect him and I think he has a lot of charisma. If he asks them to work very hard on the pitch, the guys follow him and I think the spirit in the team is very important. Thierry was a fantastic captain also, but Pascal did well on the pitch and I think it was fair to carry on with him."

And Saint-Andre has called on his side to show consistency throughout the forthcoming Six Nations and live up their billing as pre-tournament favourites. "We know the big problem of French rugby is to be consistent," Saint-Andre said. "We won four games consecutively in the autumn. This is quite a big event for French rugby, but we would like more and more of this. 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."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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