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Friday, January 13, 2006


Rugby Personalities: My Sport: Philippe Saint-Andre


Worst sporting moment? "Losing in the semi-final of the World Cup in 1995 in South Africa, where we were given no chance. We lost to South Africa and Ruben Kruger, their flanker, later admitted that he had not scored the only try."

Earliest sporting memory? I started to play rugby just after my fifth birthday, but I played a lot of tennis until I was 16. I can remember going to Roland Garros with my mother, but also watching the Five Nations with my brother and father. Jean-Pierre Rives was leading France and I remember the captain of Ireland (Ken Kennedy) who was a hooker, but also a doctor, and he was always the first on the scene when a player was injured. My brother and I would then play out the matches in the garden.

Sports played? Tennis, rugby, judo and athletics. I was in the top four in France for tennis, from 12 to 15. My mother was a tennis coach, and my father was the chairman of our local tennis club. I played rugby for the love of it, but I did a lot of training in tennis - about 10 hours a week. Rugby was just fun with my friends. I had an offer from the French Federation to go to a tennis academy, but I took the decision to play rugby because I liked the camaraderie.

Why a life in sport and if not, what would you have done? Sport was in the family and I studied it at university and started to play for France. The game was not professional so I set up a hospitality business with my brother at my first club, Clermont Ferrand. I also had a pub with a restaurant, and a bar with a disco.

Toughest part of your sporting life? Retiring was hard because I loved playing, but I had problems with injuries. With Gloucester, there was a lot of contact in training, even when the pitch was heavy. I was still enjoying the game but not so much the training. As a coach, I make sure players do very little contact in training. I experienced the change in rugby. When I signed for Gloucester I had 62 caps for France, but I had never done a bench press in my life. In France, we played rugby all the year, with four to five weeks off. At Gloucester, when I first went there, for five weeks I did not touch a ball. We went to the gym and there were young guys bench pressing 90-100kg. I could just about do 80kg.

Most memorable sporting moment? Winning two Tests in New Zealand in 1994, when I was captain of France. I have had so many great moments, and to have the opportunity to captain your country is something I treasure. My first game as captain was against Scotland at Murrayfield and we won there for the first time in 17 years. I intercepted to score the winning try.

Worst sporting moment? Losing in the semi-final of the World Cup in 1995 in South Africa, where we were given no chance. We lost to South Africa and Ruben Kruger, their flanker, later admitted that he had not scored the only try.

Sporting heroes? Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Tiger Woods, Zinedine Zidane. In rugby, Jean-Pierre Rives, Philippe Sella. It is funny, but that changes completely when your heroes become your team-mates and then your friends. What I loved about Sella was that once, when one of the young players in the team had hurt his shoulder, Sella carried his bag.

Favourite stadiums? Parc des Princes; I loved playing there. Twickenham was the worst for me because I was never on a winning French team. I scored three or four tries, but never won. I hope one day to win there with Sale - that would be a great moment.

What have you done since you arrived in March 2004 to transform them? There was great potential but the club needed a bit more balance. They knew how to attack but needed beef in front. Rugby is a balance: good set-pieces, good basics, and a good backroom staff. Jason Robinson is a great guy to work with - a serious man, but so grounded, and I love that. We are still outsiders, but we are in a good position at the halfway stage of the season.

Sporting event you would pay the most to see? The Olympic Games 100 metres final with Carl Lewis - a sprinter but also a great showman, and personable with it. As an old school rugby lover, any Six Nations.

And to miss? I am sorry for this answer but I am not a lover of cricket. I understand it is something very special for English people, but when it comes up on the television I will not follow it for more than one minute.

Question you are asked most often by the public? In fact, it is the same in England and France: 'Do you like living in England?'

And the answer? Yes. I like the culture, I like the people. My family are very happy. What is clear is that it is a very different game. In France there is more focus on the scrum and on the set-piece. As we say in France, the forwards carry the piano and the backs play it. In England, it is more one-to-one, face to face rugby. You can beat any team and lose to any team. In France, it is not so competitive with every team.

Greatest change you would like to see in the running of your sport? The game itself is quite healthy and in good shape, but the biggest thing I would like to see is less confusion in the structuring of the fixture list, with the championship, then the European competition, then the Six Nations. I don't like the current schedule.

How is rugby covered in the media in this country? Very well. All the broadsheet newspapers follow rugby in an intelligent, analytical way; the advertising and sponsorship is great; and the coverage with television is excellent, with Sky. I see it all as very professional.

Sporting motto? Win first. As a coach it is to try to optimise your squad and play the best rugby you can. To be a good coach, you have to be able to communicate your passion for the game. If you don't give, they won't give everything for you.

Who would you invite to dinner - and why? Nelson Mandela, a great man. I'd like a football manager there - either Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson, I'd be interested how they manage people and stay a long time at one club. Gerard Depardieu, who is great fun. Finally, and my wife would perhaps not be so happy - Sophie Marceau, a lovely French actress.

No doubt about it, we were lucky in that semi-final.

Then again, I suspect New Zealand would have snotted the French in the final.

I agree

Thse last few minutes were the most nerve wracking of my life up to then.

Of course that was multiplied manifold the following Saturday!!!!!!!

But NZ would probably have klapped the Frogs except for one weird quirk of nature....France have never lost a test match at Ellispark!!!!!!!
hehe davids, very true, and who can forget the snotting in the semi's france gave NZ??????

no one gave them a chance in 95 and they were terribly unlucky, and i would have supported them in the final if they made it through.

i still remember that not even a draw would have saved us because of the red cards in the canadian game, we had to beat france...

man what memories - but a great player none the less mr. saint andre.
He was a great player.

Remember the game we played against the France team he captained in 1997 at the last Parc De Prince game when we 'snotted' (sorry for the tacklerism) them and he and James Small had a cracker marking each other nevertheless.
The last five minutes of that semi final peed me off totally. I could just see how France scrapes throuhg in teh the last five minutes again. They did it in the quarters a week earlier and if I remember correctly in two pool games too.

And yes if the Boks weren't there I would have supported the French
Saint Andre,

Great players all of them.
Laurent Cabanne was the prototype of guys like Rassie and Bobby Skinstead and more recently Richie McCaw  

Ja, forgot about him.
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