France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre is putting his 36-man squad through their paces at a training camp in Tignes as Les Bleus continue their preparations for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Saint-Andre, who’s been at the helm for four years, is banking on “the purpose of surprising” at the tournament in England with few giving the French much hope despite them reaching the final in 2011.

The French players will indulge in rigorous training sessions predominantly based on physical conditioning with just 30% on rugby skills, but it seems that they will be rewarded with plenty of downtime as well.

“There will be 48 hours of non-sporting activities where we will be together, there will be no phones and more collective cohesion,” added Saint-Andre.

France play two warm-up matches against old foes England — at Twickenham (August 15) and at Stade de France (August 22) before a final pre-World Cup outing against Scotland, also at Stade de France (September 5).

The former Clermont wing has his sights set on France’s Pool D curtain-raiser against Six Nations rivals Italy: “After both tests against England, we get back on the physical training and sharpening ourrugby level to get fully fit for the opening game against Italy,” said Saint-Andre.

The 48-year-old also spoke of the players being “motivated by a goal” as France aim to become just the second northern hemisphere side after England in 2003 to win the tournament. 

After the tests against Stuart Lancaster’s England, Saint-Andre has the task of trimming his squad down from 36 to 31 players by the deadline on August 31.   

Saint-Andre, a former Gloucester and Sale Sharks head coach, has been widely criticised during his tenure, with France failing to finish higher than fourth in each Six Nations campaign under Saint-Andre’s tutelage.

He will be replaced by former Toulouse head coach Guy Noves — winner of ten Top 14 titles and four European Cups — after the World Cup.

France are in World Cup Pool D alongside Ireland, Italy, Canada and Romania. – Agence France-Presse

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