- France hooker hugely complimentary about England's pack
- Kayser says early “pressure” on England was key
France hooker Benjamin Kayser has praised the England pack for the muscular, commanding display that so nearly snatched Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations encounter at the Stade de France.
Les Bleus stormed into a 16-3 lead in the first quarter thanks to two tries from Yoann Huget and some ascendancy at the scrum, where Thomas Domingo and Nicolas Mas were extremely influential.
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Despite a fantastic comeback from the visitors that saw them surge ahead and hold on at 24-19 until just three minutes from time, Phillipe Saint-André’s charges took the spoils after a last-gasp try from teenage replacement Gael Fickou.
Speaking shortly after the final whistle in Paris, Kayser said the match had been a must-win for France given their troubles over the previous 12 months – managing two wins over Scotland and Tonga.
“It’s a huge win for us,” explained the Clermont front-rower. “2013 was just dreadful result-wise but we backed ourselves and the whole squad – all 30 guys – learned a lot from these games and playing the top nations like New Zealand and the Springboks.
“We really knew that the dynamic of the Six Nations is really important and we needed to launch ourselves with a good win to start 2014. It doesn’t erase anything, but it showed that we back ourselves even with 75 minutes gone. It was a big game, but from tomorrow we will be thinking about Italy.”
While acknowledging the fortunate bounces that led to each of Huget’s early scores, Kayer refused to credit luck for his side’s opening-quarter surge – instead highlighting some canny field position and a hunger to close down England’s space.
“We put the English under pressure, which was tactically very good from us,” he added. “We had a couple of good bounces that allowed us to score the tries, but last year we lost at Twickenham thanks to a lucky bounce [for Manu Tuilagi’s try].
“I don’t believe in luck – there is always a tactical strategy. The kicking has to be right and the chase has to be there. It rewards the team which is putting the most pressure on.”
Carrying for 44 metres, making 12 tackles, taking four lineouts and proving a nuisance at the breakdown all night, flanker Yannick Nyanga was simply immense for the hosts.
After attributing a sense of collective self-belief for the mindset that helped such a special showing, Kayser hinted that France had to be at the very best to oust an impressive England effort.
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“We knew the English were a very good side and we didn’t expect to put 50 points on them. We knew at some point that here would be tough moments – that’s what we said all week and at half-time. But we also knew we would be victorious if we kept believing.
“[England’s pack] were as athletic and powerful as we expected. They had great ball carriers and good impact from the bench. We weren’t surprised.
“England deserve to be where they are – almost Six Nations champions last year and the last team to beat the All Blacks. I’m not worried for them.”
Kayser, who plied his trade on these shores for Leicester Tigers between 2007 and 2009, finished by admitting it felt extra special to have clinched bragging rights over former clubmates Dan Cole and Tom Youngs.
“It was very good to see them – I would have been a bit bitter if we lost I have to say,” joked the 29-year-old. “I will always be very proud to have been a Leicester Tiger.
“My wife is English so it’s a special game for me but you have to put the emotional side out of it. It was so crucial for us.”