Monday, March 3, 2014

Brave Saint-Andre to be Admired

The modern game is all about results. On occasion we may take solace in being gallant losers, but we will be losers just the same. When coaches come to be evaluated, nobody will take into account the manner of defeats, only that there defeats and no trophies were won.

Coaches are often put under the microscope. Lost games are now rarely considered the fault of the players; fingers point at the coach in the stands like the general in the war room. A coach’s career can hinge on a single stat; win ratio. The difference between a contract until the next World Cup and being resigned to the scrap heap.

With that in mind, Phillipe Saint-Andre appears to be a brave man; a very brave man indeed. It is also clear though that he is man of integrity and a man with a love for his sport.
Phillipe, Saint-Andre, France, rugby, Six Nations,
Saint-Andre saw his hard work unravel against Wales. With two wins from two games to start the campaign it appeared the French coach had engineered a complete reversal from last year's dismal tournament. The pressure on Saint-Andre had been relieved.

That was until France were out gunned in Cardiff and as the floodlights were turned off on a cold Friday night at the Millennium Stadium, the spotlight came back on Saint-Andre.

In turn he illuminated the actions, or at least the reactions, Louis Picamoles. With a little over a hour on the clock in Cardiff Picamoles was sent to the bin. Though the offence may have been minor, the fallout is potentially huge.

Picamoles was angry and frustrated at the card shown by Allain Rolland in the Wales-France game (something Welsh fans will sympathise with greatly). As the Toulon number 8 exited the field he sarcastically applauded and flashed a thumbs up at the Irish-French ref in a fit of annoyance and petulance. It was too far for Saint-Andre.
Picamoles had been the star of France's first two victories in the Six Nations, so it is at least fitting that his fall from grace coincided with the France's change of fortunes. However, with Wesley Fofana ruled out for the remaining games, you feel Picamoles would have been France's match winner and one look at his performance in the Top 14 against Clermont shows how important he is.

To any outsiders looking in it would appear absurd. In football such behaviour is a weekly occurrence to which an eye lid is barely batted. However, as Nigel Owens is happy to point out, this is not soccer. Respect has to be the last thing to go. It is within the game’s foundations and it is difficult to see how rugby could function without it.

Many within the game think the move is some what heavy handed too and some French fans have been incensed by the decision. There can be no doubt that Picamoles is one of their best, most consistent performers and the fans of Les Bleus are not happy that they will enter what is undoubtedly a very important game without him.
Louis, Picamoles, France, rugby, Number 8, Six Nations
Saint-Andre has taken a risk, but it is almost impossible to be any thing other than impressed by his commitment to doing what he believes is right for France and for rugby as a whole
"The essence of our sport is control and respect for the referee's decision," said Saint-Andre after declaring "certain attitudes on the ground vis-a-vis match officials have no place in our sport."

With Northern Hemisphere rugby threaten to tear itself apart in a struggle for power and greed, it is refreshing to see such attitudes still remain in the modern game. Regardless of nationality or affiliation, I for one hope Saint-Andre's bravery, courage and conviction pays off.

Good luck Phillipe and (dare I say) vive la France.
Johnny Hallyday - La Bagarre

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