France eye rematch in Paris
Sportal.co.nz 24 Jun 2013 Getty Images
A much-needed two months away from the field will be used to reflect before the domestic Top 14 season begins in August.
When they re-group for their next Test, against the All Blacks on November 9, regular captain Pascal Pape, wing Vincent Clerc, halfback Morgan Parra and first-five Francois Trinh Duc should be available.
Standout No 8 Louis Picamoles and veteran first-five Frederick Michalak had their tours cut short by injury but are also likely feature when the sides meet in Paris.
Their experience will be needed in a squad filled with relatively fresh talents such as first-five Camille Lopez, flanker Alexandre Flanquart and Adrien Plante.
With an eye on the future, coach Phillipe Saint-Andre was pleased to introduce a total of seven new players to Test rugby in New Zealand while Fijian-born speedster Noa Nakaitaci impressed with an impressive brace during a midweek game against the Blues.
"I think it was important; we had seven new caps in the last three games so it was important for us," Saint-Andre said following their 24-9 defeat in New Plymouth.
There were visible signs of improvement from Les Bleus, which finished last in this year's Six Nations tournament.
Noticeably with Castres first-five Remi Tales, who debuted in Christchurch at the age of 29, conducting a backline which broke the All Blacks defensive line more than once at Yarrow Stadium.
Noted for his nous in the dropped goal department - he slotted two during Castres' victory in the Top 14 final - it was his ability to spark those around him that was most impressive.
Rookie prop Eddie Ben Arous won't hold too many fond memories of New Zealand. He was part of a scrum that showed improvement in New Plymouth but ultimately struggled against the well-versed trio of Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore and Owen Franks.
New Caledonian-born lock Sebastien Vahaamahina submitted a solid performance during his debut at Eden Park but would have hung his head in shame when he came off the bench to take part in a lineout that coughed up possession seven times at AMI Stadium a week later.
"[During the] first Test we were close but the scrum was very poor, in the second Test it was our lineout. The third was our discipline so each time we had something wrong," admitted Saint-Andre.
Halfback Jean-Marc Doussain's inability to slot a pair of penalty goals, that would have given France a handy half-time lead, proved costly in New Plymouth.
That was followed by a lacklustre second-half showing that saw Dan Carter punish the Tricolours with his boot before Beauden Barrett sealed the deal.
Saint-Andre felt the final minutes of each half had been a problem throughout the tour and said the focus would now be on finding consistency before the rematch at Parc des Princes.
"What I am pleased about is at the end of the year we played three games against the best in the world and fought with very good spirit. I think this is very important," said Saint-Andre.
"But we realise we can't switch off ... at the end of the first half, end of the game we conceded a lot of points.
"This is something we need to improve a lot for the next Test in November."
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