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Marc Lievremont praises Grand Slam-winning French team


France lift Six Nations trophy

France coach Marc Lievremont expressed his satisfaction after his team claimed a first Grand Slam since 2004 with a hard-fought win over England in Paris.

Lievremont was criticised for wholesale squad rotations early in his tenure after taking over in late 2007, but his experiments have finally paid off.

"It is a very nice baby even if the birth was quite difficult," he said.

"For the first time we have reached the end of a series and I can be satisfied. We have a Grand Slam to celebrate."

France, who claimed their ninth Grand Slam in all, won the last of their now five Six Nations titles in 11 years under Bernard Laporte in 2007.


In Lievremont's first year in charge they finished third behind Grand Slam winners Wales and England, and were also third 12 months ago behind Ireland and England.

The narrow 12-10 victory in Paris was Lievremont's first win against England in three attempts.

The platform for victory was built in the opening 40 minutes and founded on their dominance in the scrum.

"I am very proud of this team for the bravery they showed in the 80 minutes," Lievremont added.

"We owe a lot to our forwards and I am happy for them that [tight-head prop] Nicolas Mas was named man of the match," acknowledged Lievremont. "No scrum, no win."

A Francois Trinh-Duc drop-goal and three Morgan Parra penalties in reply to England's converted Ben Foden try had given France a 12-7 half-time lead.

And, despite dominating the second period, Martin Johnson's charges only registered one score after the break - a Jonny Wilkinson penalty with 13 minutes left - as France ground out a gritty if unspectacular victory.

"I would have preferred us to take more control of the match and to have more of a spectacle, but the main thing was to win," Lievremont added.

"We were pragmatic. As for a spectacle, we did produce some during the five matches. It is five victories and a Grand Slam but we have to pay tribute to the England team.

Marc Lievremont
Lievremont played in all four games of France's Grand Slam of 1998

"It was very difficult and they played their best against us. I was extremely relieved at the end of match."

Crucial to France's success was the back row of captain Thierry Dusautoir, flanker Julien Bonnaire and number eight Imanol Harinordoquy, the latter one of the leading candidates for the Player of the Tournament award.

Dusautoir hailed Les Bleus' gargantuan effort in wet conditions in Paris, where England beat France in the 2007 World Cup semi-final and on their last Six Nations visit in 2008, as well as crushing the French 34-10 at Twickenham last year.

"Despite the weather, we won this game and beat England with a lot at stake," he said.

"Honestly, I think we were better than England. But we had to search for something else to win, more pragmatism.

"In the rain, and with all that pressure, we reacted well. For once, the English did not beat us. We can be very proud with the end of the match."

Lievremont became only the fourth person to win a Grand Slam as player and coach, following in the footsteps of compatriots Jean-Claude Skrela and Jacques Fouroux, and England's Clive Woodward.

However, the former Biarritz back row, who was part of the team who achieved it in 1998, was keen to deflect attention away from his achievement.

"I'm not here to write my personal history," he added. "I am above all very happy for my players."

For France manager Jo Maso, it was a sixth Grand Slam. He was part of the first ever French clean sweep as a player in 1968, and was also part of the management team in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2004.

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England can be 30% better - Moody
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France v England photos
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France 12-10 England
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France 46-20 Italy
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Wales 20-26 France
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France 33-10 Ireland
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Scotland 9-18 France
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