Agar unhappy with lack of Catalans support for France

France coach Richard Agar was clearly frustrated after his team’s 84-4 defeat to England on Saturday at Leigh.

The scoreline, a record victory for the English, did not surprise Agar, who felt that his hands were tied in terms of the personnel from which he could pick his team.

“It’s a tough one, but I can’t say it’s one that I’m surprised at,” he said.

“It’s an ugly scoreline. Coming into this game, when the fixture was announced, it was one that the French could look forward to.

“But we’ve gone into this game without something like 14 players, and I think the score is reflective of the respective playing depth of both countries.

“We’ve ended up today with about six or seven guys who are basically part-time footballers.

“Coming up against a powerful England side like that, it was always going to be a very, very difficult afternoon.

“The scoreline is ugly, but the reality for us is we’ve gone in there with a weakened team, in terms of Test caps, Super League experience and the big difference between the sides was physical.

“We simply could not match England physically at all.”

Agar also highlighted the negative way in which he felt France‘s only Super League club, the Catalans Dragons, treated the France national team ahead of the fixture with England.

“The rug was pulled out from under us about training at Brutus, yet the red carpet has been rolled out for New Zealand,” he said.

“The status of our team in that particular neck of the woods is probably a little bit disappointing.

“As national coach, you want all the support you can get. When you see another country getting a damned sight more support than us, you need to ask a couple of questions there.

“In future, we’ll just take our sessions to Toulouse, where we’ll be welcomed. One of the ideas of the Dragons coming into Super League was to try and strengthen the French national team and I’m not too sure it’s done that.

“But that’s no reflection on today’s result. It highlights the respective depth in the playing stocks of both countries.”

France won their opening clash of the European Championship against Ireland last week 31-14 in Albi.

Next week, they will face Wales in Cardiff in the second game of the Championship, and Agar acknowledges that the game will be utterly different to the one against England.

“It’s a different level of competition,” he said.

“If we were coming into this game with Bosc, Yaha, Duport, Casty, Baitieri, Garcia, then we would have been far more confident of holding our own.

“As it was, we lost three players from last week, and we’ve gone into this game with a lot of guys making their first or second start, and with a very young and inexperienced team.

“So I think it was quite clearly a mis-match. I’m not too sure that either side will get anything out of it.

“I also think that had we had a crystal ball and realised that we were going to be in this position at this time of year, then perhaps it was a fixtue that we wouldn’t have stuck our hands up to play.”

The quality of available playing resources in France has also been somewhat overstated recently, according to Agar.

“Our two stand-out players were Morgan Escare and Mickael Simon,” he added.

“They’re two guys who play week-in and week-out in Super League.

“Morgan and, arguably, Julien Bousquet, are our only two players who are playing regularly in the top eight in Super League.

“While we’ve got a smattering of guys with Super League experience, I wouldn’t call them bona fide Super League players.

“They’re in squads, but the reality is that they’re far removed from the level that the opposition is playing against, and certainly the level that a couple of our better players are playing at week-in and week-out.

“I pick the team that is available to me. If we had available the top-eight talent that we’ve got in France, then that scoreline wouldn’t have happened.

“It’s highlighted the respective playing depths of both countries.

France, once they get outside the top 17 or 18 players, are struggling to compete at this level.

“Next week will be a different case when we play Wales, and the week after against Scotland, but if you play the top three nations with that team you’d get a similar result most weeks.”

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