Coach tells France to toughen up for Six Nations Scotland clash
France's Brice Mach (C) takes part in a training session in Marcoussis on March 6, 2014, ahead of their Six Nations match against Scotland - by Lionel Bonaventure
French hopes of a Grand Slam were dashed by a 27-6 thumping by two-times defending champions Wales in Cardiff last time out and Saint-Andre responded by making seven changes, virtually half his side, for this weekend's clash in Edinburgh.
While some of the changes are injury-enforced the fact Saint-Andre, who come the Wales match had already fielded 10 different half-back pairings in just two years, has changed his scrum-half yet again is bound to raise more questions about his judgement.
It seems almost blackly comic to recall that Saint-Andre was brought in to replace the 'erratic' Marc Lievremont after the latter had taken France all the way to just a single-point defeat by hosts New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup final.
Prior to this match, former France captain Saint-Andre had already axed No 8 Louis Picamoles for sarcastically applauding Irish referee Alain Rolland when the back-row was sin-binned against Wales.
He has now brought in brought in Maxime Mermoz, Sebastien Vahaamahina and Brice Mach with Wesley Fofana, Yannick Nyanga and Dimitri Szarzewski all injured.
In addition, Damien Chouly starts at No 8 in place of Picamoles.
- 'Lack of self-control' -
But if the enforced and disciplinary disruption wasn't enough, Saint-Andre has dropped Wenceslas Lauret, Jean-Marc Doussain and Hugo Bonneval.
That has led to starts for Alexandre Lapandry at openside, Maxime Machenaud at scrum-half and Maxime Medard on the wing.
"Some of the changes are due to injuries. But when you leave out some of those who had been starting, it is either a punishment due to their performances or their lack of self-control," Saint-Andre said after naming his team on Thursday.
"The performance of the players needs to be called into question and we are expecting a response so that our supporters can be proud of their team at Murrayfield.
"We can still win the tournament, which a lot of people forget," he said with France involved in a four-way tie at the top with Ireland, England and Wales, although the Irish have a vastly superior points difference to all their title rivals.
But the coach urged his side to focus on the task at hand and leave it to captain Pascal Pape to speak to the referee.
"We had too many cry-babies (in Cardiff), too many players who spoke and made things difficult for the captain Pascal Pape," Saint-Andre explained.
"On Saturday, Pascal will be allowed to speak to the referee but the other 14 must work for the team and maintain their self-control."
For all Saint-Andres changes, France will go into the game having won their last seven Tests against Scotland.
Scotland coach Scott Johnson, almost as unpredictable as Saint-Andre in his team selection, has recalled captain Kelly Brown in one of three changes to the pack following the last gasp 21-20 win away to Italy secured by Duncan Weir's drop-goal that spared the Scots the embarrassment of a Six Nations whitewash.
Brown replaced Glasgow's Chris Fusaro, while Geoff Cross and David Denton also come into the pack in place of Moray Low and Ryan Wilson.
"I think Saturday is a game that will really suit Kelly," said Johnson.
"Unlike other sides in the competition, France play above the ground a bit and there will be a lot of mauling," the Australian added.
Meanwhile Johnson refused to read too much into France's defeat by Wales.
"They have proven over the years that they are a great rugby nation so whatever side comes to Edinburgh, we know we'll have to be at our best," he said.
Veteran wing Sean Lamont, who scored two tries when Scotland last beat France, 20-16 at Murrayfield in 2006, said precision would be the key on Saturday
"We need to be super accurate, we need to be clean -- that means no penalties and number one, we need to make our tackles in defence."