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Battered France looking for redemption in Rome

Latest update : 2009-03-21

France coach Marc Lièvremont is hoping for a morale-boosting victory against Italy on Saturday to end a disappointing Six Nations tournament on a more positive note following last week's mauling by England.

AFP - Under-fire France coach Marc Lievremont issued a stark warning to his side on Friday that he expected them to go out and play like responsible grown-ups in their final Six Nations match against Italy.

The former France flanker controversially picked the same squad that was overwhelmed 34-10 last Sunday by England but he said that it was a chance for those players to show that that had merely been an embarrassing blip.

"I am waiting for them to show they are a team, which was not the case at Twickenham," said Lievremont, who was earlier this week given a vote of confidence along with fellow coaches Emile Ntamack and Didier Retiere by federation chief Pierre Camous.

"That the players assume their responsibilities. At the end of 18 months (since he took over) of living together, after six months with the same group, one should be able to work on more elaborate moves, to add the final touches.

"Instead of that, we have to recall the basic fundamentals of the sport.

"We are waiting for them to play like responsible adults."

Lievremont, who has also seen his side lose to Ireland while recording wins over Scotland and 2008 Grand Slam-winners Wales, insisted he had done the right thing by standing by his squad, having suggested in the immediate aftermath that there would be several changes.

"If I had dropped the players from the starting XV who failed to produce the goods at Twickenham then I would have been left with a choice of players that one could count on only one hand," said Lievremont, who to many people's surprise changed the winning team against the Welsh for the England match.

"An exceptional opportunity has been given to this group of players - to redress that insult and to come back from it, even if it won't be sufficient to forget that slap in the face at Twickenham, the humiliation we went through in what was our most important match of the year.

"It is now part of the team and coaching staff's history. The coaching staff have to take responsibility as well in the defeat.

"I will not be lucky enough to be on the pitch on Saturday to wipe that away.

"However, we still have confidence in this squad. We thought they were good enough to win at Twickenham, so therefore we should think that they can win at the Stadio Flaminio."

Lievremont, who was a surprise choice when he was plucked from Dax to replace Bernard Laporte after the 2007 World Cup, warned, though, that Italy's much-improved performance in the 20-15 defeat to Wales last Saturday means they should not be taken lightly.

"We saw their performance against Wales.

"They were on the point of beating the side regarded as the best in the northern hemisphere until we beat them.

"We know that the Italians are improving year in, year out in the Six Nations.

"Of course they are going to want to press us where it hurts."

Date created : 2009-03-21