Updated: Wednesday, 07 May 2014 00:46 | By Agence France-Presse

France eye Australian stepping stone to World Cup

France will travel to Australia eyeing a successful three-Test tour ahead of next year's World Cup, coach Philippe Saint-Andre said Tuesday.


France eye Australian stepping stone to World Cup

France's rugby union national team head coach Philippe Saint-Andre gives a press conference on March 13, 2013 in Marcoussis, outside Paris - by Lionel Bonaventure

Les Bleus could only finish fourth in this year's Six Nations, with three victories in their five matches, but Saint-Andre was quick to proclaim his team as potential World Cup winners on English soil in 2015.

The first step in that mission was a testing tour of Australia.

"Put simply, we have to win the matches," Saint-Andre told AFP in an interview, with his travelling squad to be unveiled on Wednesday.

"It's the last tour before the World Cup so it'll be important in that respect, for the team's spirit.

"We're going there with a lot of positivity, desire and hope."

Saint-Andre said no motivation was needed.

"What better challenge exists? We're going to one of the most beautiful countries in the world to play three Test matches in a sport that is not only the profession of the the players but also their passion. It's nothing but good," said the former captain and winger of the French XV.

"The Australians have made great progress," he conceded. "They've revamped their team since the 2011 World Cup.

"During the November internationals, they really showed off their capabilities.

"They went and won easily in Wales, Italy and Ireland. It'll be a very high level but it's only by playing the best that you improve."

Saint-Andre acknowledged that some players would not make the trip down under.

"Some will be rested," he said. "I've had chats with some Top 14 coaches and some players really need a rest because they're a bit burnt out.

"They need to recuperate and above all must be able to have a real off-season before the upcoming World Cup year.

"But others have played 30-35 matches and have a massive desire to play for the France team."

Saint-Andre said he had been buoyed by his team's performance in the Six Nations, which ended with a 22-20 defeat by eventual champions Ireland.

"I was even more so happy given the huge numbers of 'leaders' who were missing or who we lost through injury in the tournament, such as Thierry Dusautoir, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Morgan Parra, Benjamin Kayser and Dimitri Szarzewski.

"The tournament was better than last year even if it wasn't satisfying. There was a feeling of unfinished business, particularly with the last game."

Saint-Andre dismissed any thoughts that his fate might mirror that of his predecessor Marc Lievremont, who knew he would not be continuing as coach after the World Cup in 2011 when his France team defied all odds to reach the final, where they lost 8-7 to hosts New Zealand.

"No, I've put myself in World Cup mode," said Saint-Andre. "I've still got 17 or 18 months. I have the enormous privilege being able to experience a World Cup with the France team in England.

"I have no idea what I'll be doing in November 2015 and that's not a problem for me - I can do half a million different jobs!"

First up for Saint-Andre and his charges will be the Wallabies, with the three Tests to run on concurrent Saturdays starting June 7.

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