Pape: Imports damage France

France captain Pascal Pape admits big-money imports into the Top 14 are damaging the country's national team.

The Stade Francais lock insisted that expensive luxury signings in France's domestic league, like Englishman Jonny Wilkinson and Australian Matt Giteau at Toulon, were holding Les Bleus back at international level.

Six Nations champions Wales have Jamie Roberts at Racing Metro and James Hook plying his trade at Perpignan while Ireland and British and Irish Lions fly-half Jonathan Sexton is a high-earning colleague of Roberts's in Paris.

France finished bottom of the 2013 Six Nations table, managing just one victory and leading coach Philippe Saint-Andre to make sweeping changes to his squad this year.

Pape will stand in for injured skipper Thierry Dusautoir in the Six Nations, with the 33-year-old admitting club squads packed with foreign recruits have a damaging effect at the next level.

"To fill in some positions in the team can become very difficult indeed," he said. "My club trusts home-grown players and that's important, and I wish more did the same.

"Other clubs don't, it's a shame and it impacts on the national side. It is something that we could really do with changing."

Saint-Andre believes France must skip the entrees and devour the main course to have any chance of a successful championship.

The French host bitter rivals England at Stade de France on Saturday, February 1 on the opening weekend.

In the professional era France have lifted the Six Nations title every season directly following a British and Irish Lions tour.


Former Gloucester coach Saint-Andre hopes for a repeat, but refused to mark his side out as favourites solely through circumstance.

"We don't start with a starter: we start with the main course, Les Rosbifs straight away," said the France coach.

"When you finish bottom in 2013 it's difficult to say you are favourites in 2014, Wales and England are still the favourites.

"Last year it was very painful because small details make the difference. I just believe in this squad, in these young players.

"I am sure this team will be much more competitive than last year. I hope that statistic about the Lions tour can be right again, but we cannot expect after our performance last year.

"When the Lions finish late, in July, it is unusual for them and they play more games.

"But playing 40 games a year is nothing new for our players."