Saint-Andre names Bru and Lagisquet among staff
Updated: December 09, 2011, 07:22
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PARIS(AP) France's new coach Philippe Saint-Andre will prepare for the Six Nations Championship with former internationals Yannick Bru and Patrice Lagisquet as his assistants and a vastly experienced selection committee to lean on for support.
Bru played 18 tests for France as a hooker and takes charge of the forwards. Lagisquet, who scored 20 international tries as a winger, looks after the backs.
Saint-Andre, who replaced Marc Lievremont after the World Cup, is relying on a selection committee comprised of Fabien Pelous and Philippe Sella - two of France's greatest players - former France coach Jean-Claude Skrela, Bru and Lagisquet.
"I want to bring all my professionalism to the job, and to bring together all the competence and energy of my players and my staff,'' Saint-Andre said Friday. "I also want to the guarantor of a good team spirit based on self-sacrifice and discipline.''
Pelous played 118 times for France, a national team record, and captained Les Tricolores 42 times, winning Five Nations and Six Nations Grand Slam titles in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2004.
The burly lock helped Toulouse win the Heineken Cup in 2003 and 2005, and won three league titles in nearly 300 games for the club.
Sella is widely considered one of world rugby's best ever centers, and scored 32 tries in 112 tests.
Skrela, whose son David was injured playing at flyhalf for France at the World Cup, was coach when France reached the 1999 World Cup final, losing to Australia. France lost this year's final 8-7 to New Zealand on Oct. 23, having also lost the inaugural final to the All Blacks on their home soil in 1987.
"We're a big rugby nation, we've played in three finals without getting our hands on this trophy,'' the 44-year-old Saint-Andre said. "I will try to bring all my experience as a former player and captain.''
The committee's first task will be to select a group of 30 players on Jan. 5 for a three-day training camp later that month, giving Saint-Andre a better idea who will play against Italy in the Six Nations on Feb 4.
Despite the advancing years of some of France's players, Saint-Andre does not intend to make wholesale changes to the team that reached the final.
Veteran forwards like lock Lionel Nallet (35), prop Jean-Baptiste Poux (33), flanker Julien Bonnaire (33) and hooker William Servat (33) were tipped to step aside after the World Cup.
But Saint-Andre hinted that he may still need them for a while yet as he oversees a transition period.
"No one has announced their international retirement, so everyone is available,'' he said. "We were one of the oldest teams at the World Cup: 29 years, 10 months on average. But when you see how Nallet played ... We know that players who are 33, 34, 35 won't be at the next world cup. We need a good base, and to gradually bed in the players for tomorrow.''
Saint-Andre praised Lievremont who, despite falling out with several senior players at the World Cup and constantly feuding with the nation's media, still managed to lead France to the final against all odds.
"I wish to congratulate Marc Lievremont for the World Cup, his Grand Slam in 2010 and his professionalism,'' Saint-Andre said. "We spoke together for four to five hours. He shared all of his experience with me, everything he thinks he could have done differently if he went back in time four years. This was very important for me.''
Saint-Andre will also use a video analyst to monitor "60 or 70 players'' playing in France's Top 14 league and in the Heineken Cup over the next few weeks as he prepares for the Six Nations. He did not say which new players he may choose.
Saint-Andre, who scored 32 tries in 69 tests as winger, hopes his experience of coaching in England with Gloucester and Sale will help him cope better with the demands of international rugby.
"It's an advantage, because I speak English well, although with a French accent,'' he said.
He did not retain any of Lievremont's assistants.