France coach bemoans lack of aggression against New Zealand

Les Bleus trailed 5-31 at halftime after conceding four first-half tries to the All Blacks before fighting back in the second.
France coach bemoans lack of aggression against New Zealand

New Zealand No. 8 and captain Kieran Read (center) poses with teammates and the trophy after a 28-18 victory over France in their friendly rugby union international test at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, on November 11, 2017.

France coach Guy Noves criticized his players for their lack of commitment in the first half of their 18-38 defeat against New Zealand in the first test of their November series on Saturday.

Les Bleus trailed 5-31 at halftime after conceding four first-half tries before fighting back in the second.

"In the first half we did not play at the level required for an international team. New Zealand have qualities, obviously, but we have not been worthy opponents in the first half," Noves told a news conference after France's 11th consecutive defeat against the world champion All Blacks.

A decent second half, where France outscored New Zealand 13-7, was not enough to appease Noves.

"Maybe they realized that with more aggressiveness and more respect for the France shirt, they could compete with this team," he said.

"When you start off like this, being so bad, it was really a minimum to play like this in the second half, but we cannot be satisfied with our performance," the coach added as he assessed his side's form ahead of its second test, against South Africa at the Stade de France on Saturday.

"It would have been a drama if we didn't have that second half.

"We have to see why we started the game like this, with so little aggressiveness."

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen was not entirely satisfied, either.

"We lost the discipline a little and we allowed the momentum to shift," said Hansen, who admitted his team might have eased off.

"It is difficult for any team to hold the momentum for the whole duration of the contest," he said. "The French got confidence and they put us under pressure."

Meanwhile,  Australia coach Michael Cheika described his rivalry with England counterpart Eddie Jones as "irrelevant" as he sought to deflect attention away from their previous verbal skirmishes ahead of next Saturday's test at Twickenham, Reuters reported.

It will be the fifth clash between the two Australian coaches since Jones took over the England job two years ago and Cheika has come off second best in all four previous meetings — three of them on home soil.

The two are former teammates at Sydney club Randwick but traded verbal blasts this time last year when the Wallabies were beaten 21-37 at Twickenham.

It's Irrelevant

Asked by reporters about their reunion next weekend, Cheika said: “Mate, it’s irrelevant. It's Australia versus England. That's the only thing that counts.

“It's not about fun with Eddie or anyone. We'll have fun in our own camp and then prepare ourselves the best we can each day.”

One concern for Australia in the build-up to the Twickenham test will be the number of penalties that the Wallabies conceded in Saturday's 29-21 win over Wales in Cardiff.

“You are not going to be able to say it's not a problem of our doing because the penalty count was 15-3 against us,” Cheika said after making a winning start to their three-match British tour.

“I think just the consistency is what we are looking for. We've got to solve it, it’s a problem we haven't had all year. We’ve not been in double digits almost all year so to go 15 in our first game in Europe surprised me... and lose a player too.”

Captain Michael Hooper was sent to the sin-bin for repeated infringements and forced to watch from the sidelines as the Wallabies held off a strong home finish.

“It's becoming a bit of a thing for us against this Welsh team. A couple of times where our team has just hung in with a lot of character,” said Hooper afterwards.

“It was a really satisfying win... The willingness of the team to get off the ground and work for each other was hugely pleasing.”

England beat Argentina 21-8 at Twickenham on Saturday in its first international of the November series in a clash Jones termed a "grindathon".

In other autumn internationals on Saturday, it was: Ireland 38, South Africa 3; Wales 21, Australia 29; Scotland 44, Samoa 38; and Italy 19, Fiji 10.

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