Six Nations

France have more freedom under Noves

Guy Noves (File)
Guy Noves (File)

Marcoussis - France back Maxime Medard directed a veiled criticism towards former coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Tuesday by claiming new boss Guy Noves gives the players more freedom.

Saint-Andre's four-year tenure at the France helm was a disaster, with Les Bleus never finishing above fourth in the Six Nations -- even earning the wooden spoon in 2013 -- and being humiliated by eventual champions New Zealand in last year's World Cup quarter-final.

But aside from the miserable results, Saint-Andre -- once a dashing and creative wing three-quarter -- was most criticised for the style of his team's play, seen by many as sterile.

"We have more freedom than before but it depends on many things," said Medard, who has enjoyed a return to the France set-up under his former Toulouse coach Noves having fallen out of favour under Saint-Andre.

"We have the foundations but this coaching staff allows us to take the initiative for the good of the team."

France have won their first two matches of this season's Six Nations competition, both narrowly and both at home: to Italy (23-21) and Ireland (10-9).

But they face their sternest test yet away to tournament favourites Wales in Cardiff on Friday night.

"Of course after two wins we're more relaxed in training. That apart, what I believe is different to previous years is that the players are really taking responsibility for the style of play: we're not waiting to be told what to do, we try to speak out about things we agree or disagree with."

For France, Friday's match will bring back painful memories as it was the setting for their record 62-13 thrashing at the hands of the All Blacks last October.

And France's last clash with Wales there two years ago ended in a 27-6 defeat.

That was only flyhalf Jules Plisson's third appearance in a France shirt and despite the final result and Wales' dominance that day, he retains fond memories, even though the home side targeted him throughout.

"I'm happy to be able to return there because I've got two more years of experience now," said the Stade Francais player.

"It's also my worst memory because we had periods in which throughout the match they came into my area with their guys who weigh more than 110kg and stand over 1.90m.

"But we're going to put things in place so that we're fine."

Plisson said it had been a chance to grow up quickly into international rugby.

"When you get hit by missiles all match long, it forges your character," added Plisson, who is 'only' 92kg and 1.84m.

"I told myself, I need to improve."

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