Lièvremont frank on France's problems

(Rugby News Service) Sunday 2 October 2011
Lièvremont frank on France's problems
France coach Marc Lièvremont has backed his captain Thierry Dusautoir

WELLINGTON, 2 Oct. - Despite declaring he still had faith in his squad following their shock defeat by Tonga on Saturday night, France coach Marc Lièvremont has admitted his team have serious issues to overcome before the quarter-finals.

"We are alive, we are still part of this adventure and I still want to fight," he said after the match. "And I believe my players want to fight. I trust my players ..."

But in a frank press conference on Sunday following the 19-14 defeat, Lièvremont said his players "lacked collective dynamism" and compared them with the France football team, who refused to train after a fallout with coach Raymond Domenech at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

He insisted his under-fire captain Thierry Dusautoir was still the right man to lead them into the quarter-final against England, despite two defeats in pool matches.

"I thought I had experienced everything in terms of shame," Lièvremont said the morning after Les Bleus' defeat by the Pacific Islanders.

"But this time round, it's been an extremely violent feeling again. Each missed pass, each missed tackle, I took them as a deep personal failure."

Lièvremont also revealed what happened in the France dressing room after they had suffered one of the biggest upsets in RWC history.

Different directions

"I would have liked for us to gather around a few drinks yesterday, to talk, to share thoughts, to tell each other that it's a beautiful adventure, all things considered. And I was disappointed.

"At the end of the press conference, I got us some beers to release the pressure - and we all split in different directions. It's a kind of disappointment.

"For now, there is no divide in the group, even if it may look like it. I'm still waiting for some reaction from the players. It's their choice if they do."

Lièvremont is adamant he will soldier on, insisting: "Naturally, I am a fighter, I believe in the men, in a group who hopefully know how to pick themselves up.

"I have got experienced and talented players. But maybe not as talented as I thought."

Lièvremont, who took over from Bernard Laporte after RWC 2007, has had a difficult season. In November, France had a heavy defeat to Australia at Stade de France (59-16) and later In the Six Nations Championship his team were beaten by Italy (22-21), the Azzurri's first win over the French in the tournament. 

Image matters 

The coach spoke of his task in dealing with modern players, saying: "I've got respect for them and think highly of them, I talk to them openly.

"I think it is reciprocal even though I am under no illusions.

"We live in a society where image matters. I saw players with their agent on the eve (of the match) and after the game instead of regrouping as a team.

"They have their career to manage, and perhaps the media to please. French rugby and players laughed at the French football players last year. But in some respect, we didn't get off the bus either."

Lièvremont was referring to the France football side, who returned to the bus and refused to train after a well-publicised row with Domenech and his staff in South Africa.

Lièvremont also defended his own image and experience. "For some, I might just be a ProD2 (Division Two) coach, absolutely not competent to train a team of the level of the national squad.

Captain support

"Some compare me with Raymond Domenech. You must know that I have got an immense respect for him.

"He did fight. I know what that means and, I repeat, I have absolutely no intention to give up. I've got my share of responsibilities, but do you sincerely think that it is because of my management that we failed to be committed in the game? There is a lack of collective dynamism."

But the coach is firmly behind his skipper Dusautoir, who has also been under some pressure following the defeats by New Zealand (37-17) and Tonga.

Lièvremont said: "I want to give Thierry Dusautoir a message. Only he is exemplary. He spends a lot of energy to mobilise his troops.

"He is heavily criticised. He should only focus on his performance."

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