Marc Lievremont, the France coach, concedes now is the time for his players to come of age as they prepare to take on Scotland in their Six Nations opener today at Murrayfield. Les Bleus have failed to impress during Lievremont's two tournaments at the helm, finishing third both times, having won the previous two under Bernard Laporte.
But Lievremont is confident his team will prove their worth this year. "We have committed ourselves to a dynamic of progression, of consistency," he said. "The World Cup is far off. There is still a Six Nations in 2011, an autumn tournament, one in the spring. But to validate the progression of this France team, we need to commit ourselves to the continuity of our performances. We're dreaming that this is the France team's year with victory in the Six Nations, if possible a Grand Slam."
France's preparations for the game have been hampered by a series of injury problems. Already without Fabien Barcella, Damien Traille and Dimitri Yachvili, now Sebastien Chabal, Romain Millo-Chluski and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde have all been forced to pull out. But Lievremont has called for his players to continue their quest for consistency. "Beyond the hazards of injury, possible reduction in some people's form, we kept the focus on continuity, with at the same time bringing back players who had excellent performances with their clubs," he continued. "What formed large parts of my talks is that the players have to be masters of their game, they have to be more demanding, almost uncompromising, that they learn how to collectively detest defeat.
"There is still a lack of consist-ency in the results, because we have still not been able to secure a run of three consecutive victories, and also in the content. The players need to impose their rugby whoever our opponents are, whatever their style of play." * With agencies Scotland v France, 7pm KO, Aljazeera +3