French trio to front up

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PARIS, February 11- France's front row may be small in comparison to their international counterparts, but scrum coach Didier Retiere is convinced they will out-perform their Irish opponents in the Six Nations in Dublin on Sunday.

Props Thomas Domingo and Nicolas Mas and hooker William Servat were about the only French players to be able to hold their heads up high after the 59-16 mauling by Australia last November, having got the better of the Wallabies’ front three.

Their effectiveness was on show again last Saturday in the opening 34-21 victory over Scotland as their dominance forced the Scots to collapse the scrum three times close to their line giving English referee Wayne Barnes no option but to award the French a penalty try.

Retiere, a former prop for Creusot and Dijon, said that whilse some people outside of France may not understand it, a French audience delighted in such a spectacle as the scrums that produced the penalty try.

"In terms of the image that rugby has for French people, the scrum is a sort of badge of honour," said the 42-year-old former French Under-21 coach.

"We love to fight together, sometimes too much."

The trio will line-up together for the ninth time on Sunday and according to Retiere bring their different talents to the game.

For Retiere, Mas is the prop that comes closest to the old garrulous, grizzly type who were not very mobile but rock solid.

The 30-year-old Perpignan stalwart – who will win his 41st cap – is, however, a slightly modernised version.

"He is a calming force and also a perfect compromise," said Retiere.

"He resembles props that we have known down the years such as (Jean-Pierre) Garuet, (Pierre) Dospital and at the same time, he is also capable of competing in rugby that is now much more mobile and he is able to pass the ball in his sleep," said Retiere.

With regards to 25-year-old Domingo – set for his 15th test appearance – Retiere said that the Clermont star was certainly not someone that other countries’ coaches might think of selecting.

"He is atypical of the traditional image of a prop," said Retiere.

"He is a player who would maybe not play for other countries, who are essentially looking for big props. However, he has done things that nobody else would be capable of."

For Retiere, Servat, the 33-year-old No8 turned hooker, is the best in his position in the world.

"Servat is a very powerful player who loves scrummaging a lot, who has time to think and who is capable of adapting our play to that of our opponents.

"He is also a real leader, a guy whose good humour lightens up the whole squad."

Retiere, though, acknowledges that not all is bright and rosy should one of the three suffer a serious injury as the potential replacements are nowhere near the same level.

That was reflected by the fact that 80-times capped 34-year-old veteran Sylvain Marconnet is still very much part of the squad.

"We have a new problem: the three first choices have raised the bar to a new level," smiled Retiere.

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