French players eager to deliver, says Medard
France's Maxime Medard passes the ball during a team run practice at The Millennium stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on February 20, 2014 - by Andrew Yates
The Irish -- who Medard described as 'the best team in the tournament' -- enter the final round of matches level on six points with England and France but with a significantly superior points difference.
However, while both Ireland and England have been highly-praised for their performances in this season's competition, the English inflicting the only defeat on the Irish 13-10, France have been slammed by ex-players, coaches and the media alike.
Not even the fact that the French have won more matches (three) than they did in the whole of last year -- they won two (against Scotland and Tonga), drew one and lost eight -- including a thrilling late victory over England has placated the critics of head coach Philippe Saint-Andre and his squad.
While several of the players have bristled at this sense of injustice that they can't win whatever they do, having lost last year on several occasions despite playing well and now winning in ugly fashion, like the 19-17 success over Scotland last Saturday, Medard accepted not all was going smoothly.
"People's expectations were high because they felt that there was quality in this team," said the 27-year-old, who can play at both wing and fullback.
"But we have not been able to live up to that billing. That must annoy a lot of people and it has been frustrating for us as well.
"On Saturday in front of our public and our families and against the best team in the tournament there will be a huge amount of pressure.
"We know that if we lose a lot of people will hammer us. Therefore we are really eager to do something good."
Medard, though, expressed his consternation at the perversity of the reactions over their present record in the championship compared to last year.
"When we win, a lot of questions are asked," he said.
"When we lose the same thing happens and when we draw even more questions are asked of us.
"We are wondering when that will stop and we can say to all those people: 'That's terrific and now we can have a beer together'."
Veteran hooker Dimitri Szarzewski, who didn't play in the win over Scotland as he was injured, was in more combative mood and harangued the media and the former "rugbymen", who are now pundits, for their downbeat assessments of the team.
"A short time ago they were in the same position but they have forgotten that very quickly," said the 31-year-old, 78-times capped Racing-Metro star.
"They have developed amnesia."
Szarzewski, a member of the France side that lost 8-7 to hosts New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup final, called on the criticism to be transformed into support.
"I would prefer that you the media be a bit more behind the France team and stop criticising.
"We need you and your support as we are all in the same boat."
Contrary to the general impression, the hooker said that things were moving in the right direction just over a year ahead of the 2015 World Cup, a tournament the French have never won despite appearing in three finals.
"Everyone wants to do better, to make progress," he said.
"I guarantee you that we are training better and better, that we are more cohesive and that it will pay off.
"It just suffices for it all to click into place in order for things to change completely.
"We have confidence in our system and our style of play."