• ‘Overseas stars hurting French rugby’

    French coach Philippe Saint-André believes that the influx of foreign stars into the Top 14 is affecting their national side.

    Saint-André, who’s now in his third year in charge of France, says that the prop, flyhalf and wing positions are the ones most affected by the presence of overseas players.

    ‘Talented young French players are having to play in the second division to get any game time. The system needs to be improved.

    ‘The Top 14 is a big business and a big economy in world rugby. The new TV deal means more money and more power.

    ‘It's unbelievable but 70% of the wings in the Top 14 are from Tonga, Fiji or New Zealand.

    ‘We are in difficulty. The biggest problem is our kicker. None of our players are first-choice kickers at their clubs.’

    Saint-André is familiar with the need for experienced talent in order to up the quality of rugby, as he even acted as head coach of the star-studded Toulon, but does see the affect on the country’s international standards.

    ‘I worked for Toulon and the chairman is very ambitious. He said to me 'I want to win very quickly'. So I said 'OK, we'll sign Matt Giteau and Bakkies Botha’’, said Saint-André.

    ‘When you sign this type of player, you don't need five years before you get success.

    ‘Toulon are a fantastic team and I'm very happy they qualified for the European Cup, but in their last three games they only had three French players in their starting XV.’

    Toulon currently features Australia’s Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, England’s Delon and Steffon Armitage and Jonny Wilkinson, New Zealand’s David Smith, and South Africa’s Bakkies Botha, Bryan Habana, Joe van Niekerk, Juan Smith and Craig Burden; all of whom dominate the starting line-up.

    Les Bleus will also enter the Six Nations, which opens against England in Paris on 1 February, without a single player who is the recognised first-choice goal-kicker at their club.

    Source: AAP
    Photo: BackpagePix