French coach Marc Lievremont likened his players to France’s 2010 Soccer World Cup flops after losing to Tonga.
Lievremont, whose team will play England in the World Cup quarter-finals, has a history of not holding back in his criticism of players and he wasn’t going to go easy on them after their worst ever World Cup defeat.
‘I thought I had experienced everything in terms of shame,’ Lièvremont said on Sunday. But this time round, it’s been an extremely violent feeling again. Each missed pass, each missed tackle, I took them as a deep personal failure.’
Lievremont, who succeeded Bernard Laporte after the 2007 World Cup, has experienced a torrid last six months, during which time the French lost in Paris 59-16 against Australia (after leading 16-15 with 30 minutes to play) and lost for the first time to Italy (22-21) in the Six Nations.
‘We live in a society where image matters. I saw players with their agent on the eve (of the match) and after the game instead of regrouping as a team. They have their career to manage, and perhaps the media to please. French rugby and players laughed at the French football players last year. But in some respect, we didn’t get off the bus either.’
Lievremont was referring to the France football side, who returned to the bus and refused to train after a well-publicised row with the coaching staff.
The coach said he still believed in his own ability and vowed to fight on, even if some of his players may not.
‘For some, I might just be a ProD2 (Division Two) coach, absolutely not competent to train a team of the level of the national squad.’
Lievremont admitted he had attempted a ‘clear the air’ drinks session afterwards but the players had not responded. He still did not think this constituted a divide within the squad, as has been written about almost daily in New Zealand for the last month.
‘I would have liked for us to gather around a few drinks yesterday, to talk, to share thoughts, to tell each other that it’s a beautiful adventure, all things considered. And I was disappointed. At the end of the press conference, I got us some beers to release the pressure – and we all split in different directions. It’s a kind of disappointment.
‘For now, there is no divide in the group, even if it may look like it. I’m still waiting for some reaction from the players. It’s their choice if they do. I have got experienced and talented players. But maybe not as talented as I thought.’
France plays England at Eden Park on Saturday.