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RUGBY

England loss prompts call for foreign player cut

Following a crushing defeat against England which leaves France rooted to the bottom of the Six Nations table, coach Philippe Saint-André has called for a limit on foreign players plying their trade in French rugby.

England beat France 23-13 at Twickenham on Saturday to keep them on track for a grand slam and leaving France with the prospect of collecting the wooden spoon.

Although a team showing seven changes and a positional switch from the one beaten by champions Wales produced a much improved performance at Twickenham, they couldn't prevent pre-tournament favourites France suffering a third straight defeat.

This latest reverse meant 'Les Bleus' had lost their opening three matches for the first time in the Six Nations, something no France side had experienced in Championship terms since an equally poor start to the 1982 Five Nations.

A superb solo try by Wesley Fofana, moved back into the centre from the wing, helped France into a 10-9 interval lead, with recalled scrum-half Morgan Parra kicking a conversion and a penalty.

However, Parra missed penalties either side of half-time and England, thanks to a try from Manu Tuilagi, saw the Grand Slam-chasers establish a decisive seven-point lead.

Early on, France fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc, in for Frederic Michalak (who later came off the bench), produced some neat touches.

But with the likes of England great Jonny Wilkinson as well as fellow overseas fly-halves Juan Martin Hernandez, James Hook, Brock James, Luke McAllister, Paul Warwick, David Kirkpatrick, Gavin Hume and Felipe Contepomi all operating in France's Top 14, with Ireland's Jonathan Sexton set to join Racing Metro next season, Saint-Andre made no apologies for flagging up an issue he also raised during Les Bleus' victorious November campaign.

"We need to be careful about our league and leave some space for French players," he said.

Reflecting on the match, Saint-André said France had paid the price for failing to take their chances.

"England were very pragmatic. They didn't do amazing things but they were very, very accurate," said the former France wing, who scored one of the greatest tries ever seen at Twickenham back in 1991, albeit in a 21-19 loss.

"We had an opportunity at 10-9 to go four points in front and I think England were not as confident as they were the game before. But when we have the opportunity we need to finish it."

It was a point echoed by France captain Thierry Dusautoir, who said: "We made far too many mistakes and that was inexcusable.

"With seven minutes to go we were only seven points behind but we committed another mistake and they (England) scored a penalty and it was beyond us."

Meanwhile a frustrated Fofana added: "I don't know what happened. In the first half we played well and communicated and the second half we were completely the reverse. Nothing worked."

A visibly depressed Saint-André insisted: "We are very sad but we know this team has a lot to bring and that each game will be better and better."

"The young players need to learn. The taste of losing is terrible but they must keep this in their mouths and work to improve and be more professional in everything — fitness, skills and diet — because at the high level, you win or you lose on small details."

"At the moment small details are not on our side."

Saint-André said a final quarter where England's replacements outplayed their French counterparts had been key to the outcome.

"We expected a little bit more of our bench. We also need to respect the ball more. So many times we tried to offload when it was impossible and we lost too many balls in the contact area."

"For a lot of guys this was the first time they played at Twickenham. I just hope they will learn a lot about this game and what's important for us is to build a squad for the next World Cup."

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RUGBY

French rugby mourns death of fourth young player in months

French rugby was left mourning the death of a 23-year-old student on Monday, the fourth young player to have died in eight months.

French rugby mourns death of fourth young player in months
Photo: AFP

Nathan Soyeux, who was not registered with the French rugby federation (FFR), passed away in Dijon on Sunday, having been admitted to hospital after an adverse reaction to a tackle in a match at a tournament for engineering schools on November 24.

Soyeux sustained the blow whilst being tackled by an opponent and was at first able to sit up before complaining of nausea and then losing consciousness.

Taken to Dijon hospital, the player was put in an induced coma for two weeks, but his health deteriorated following efforts to bring him around, according to his engineering school, Esirem.

Soyeux becomes the fourth young French player since May to die after being injured during a match.

In December, Stade Francais youth flanker Nicolas Chauvin, 18, died after breaking his neck. In August Louis Fajfrowski, 21, died following a heavy tackle playing for Aurillac and in May 17-year-old Adrien Descrulhes passed away a day after receiving a blow to the head playing for amateur club Billom.

Chauvin's death prompted France's Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu to call on rugby authorities to make the game safer, with the former Olympic swimmer saying she would meet FFR president Bernard Laporte to discuss ways of preventing more deaths.

The FFR confirmed in December it will put together a global forum alongside World Rugby, the sport's governing body, to discuss player health and the evolution of the game's laws in March 2019 in France.

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