Rugby - Disappointed with loss, happy with attitude - Saint-Andre

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre saw enough from his young side in their 23-13 loss to New Zealand in the first Test at Eden Park on Saturday to give him plenty of optimism for the rest of the series and the World Cup in 2015.

Reuters
Rugby - Disappointed with loss, happy with attitude - Saint-Andre
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Philippe Saint-Andre (Reuters)

Saint-Andre's side had arrived in New Zealand short on experience and the former French winger was at pains to point out the development potential for the team in the three-match series as he built towards the World Cup in England.

On Saturday, the combative French, who had two debutantes and three others who began their international careers last year in their starting team, harried the All Blacks into errors and broke down their defensive line in open play.

The difference between the two sides were two counter-attacking All Blacks' tries within six minutes late in the first half as the visitors fell off tackles and turned the ball over.

Saint-Andre was disappointed with the result but not the effort of his side and the fact that their errors were things that could be corrected easily, and quickly.

"I am pleased with the attitude of the guys," Saint-Andre told a small group of reporters at the team's hotel in central Auckland on Sunday. "They worked hard. Their standards were good. The spirit of the team was good.

"It's not easy to play the All Blacks at Eden Park for the first time."

France were on top for much of the second half, camping down in All Blacks' territory for long periods but were thwarted by scrum penalties, wayward lineout throws and kicking the ball too far from a penalty that gave away field position.

Number eight Louis Picamoles also dropped the ball with the line open, when a try at that point may have spurred his team on to becoming the first side to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park since Saint-Andre sparked "the try from the end of the world" in 1994.

"We had a lot of position, a lot of opportunity and we lost one try," the former France winger said. "If we played like this during the Six Nations, I don't think we would finish bottom of the Six Nations.

"The intensity of the breakdown, we posed some problems for New Zealand. We were good in the contact area. We won a lot of turnover.

"The attitude was a better performance than the Six Nations."

Saint-Andre's side have little time to recuperate from the clash, with scrum-half Maxime Machenaud (bruising) and loose forward Fulgence Ouedraogo (ankle) injury concerns for their match against Auckland Blues on Tuesday.

The face New Zealand in the second test in Christchurch next Saturday.

Saint-Andre will use the Blues game to give several players who arrived late in New Zealand following the French club final, and others coming back from long-term injuries, a chance to impress before he names the second test squad on Thursday.

The third and final test will be in New Plymouth on June 22.

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