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French press review 2 March 2015

We don't often start these Press Reviews with a look at the sports pages, but this seems like a good morning to break that habit.

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In sports daily L'Equipe we find the Irish rugby team making headline news with their 19 points to nine defeat of England in Dublin yesterday. The French sports paper says the Irish are getting better with every match.

The French are a different story entirely. Beaten here in Paris by Wales on Saturday, the French are now struggling at the bottom end of the Six Nations table with the other wooden spoon contenders, Scotland and Italy.

L'Equipe says French coach Philippe Saint-André finally blew a fuse at the post-match press conference, attacking the players to better protect himself.

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His record in charge is unimpressive, to say the best of it, with only 40 per cent of matches won in the three-and-a-bit seasons with Saint-André at the helm. Compare that with the 65 per cent success rate under Jean-Claude Skrela, or Bernard Laporte's three Grand Slams and four championships in eight seasons, and you might think Saint-André was under a bit of pressure. Not a bit of it!

According to L'Equipe, and they tend to know about these things, the French trainer has the unconditional support of his bosses in the Federation.

The national team has a series of technical and mental problems to overcome, says the Paris sports daily, and it's far from clear that the current management crew are the men to organise a renaissance.

Claude Fauquet, former trainer of the French national swimming squad, says that when the guys on the sideline start blaming the unfortunates out on the pitch for everything, things have clearly gone beyond the point of no return.

The Rugby World Cup is due to be played later this year.

Two very different art-related stories make the front page of the weekend edition of Le Monde.

The centrist paper shares the sense of revulsion which followed the news that Islamic State head-bangers deliberately destroyed works in the museum in the northern Iraki city of Mossoul, and at the archeological site of the ancient city of Nineveh. Le Monde says Islamic State is trying to erradicate the past with its war against culture.

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The other art story is slightly more cheerful, since it concerns a Picasso masterpiece, The Hairdresser, stolen here in Paris in 2001, recovered by customs officials in New York in December. The news has just been made public, most of the delay being explained by the need for authentification..

The Hairdresser is one of Picasso's cubist works from 1911, and is conservatively estimated to be worth 2.5 million euros. The customs docket accompanying the package intercepted by the US customs described the contents as an "arts and craft toy," and valued the contents at 30 euros. The painting is due back in Paris in the next couple of months.

Boris Nemtsov is, tragically, on all this morning's front pages. He's the Russian opposition figure murdered on Friday in Moscow.

Communist L'Humanité says his death is to be explained by the rise of various competing nationalisms in the Russia of Vladimir Putin, with the current Russian military campaign in Ukraine as the chief element maintaining the tension.

Right-wing Le Figaro says Friday's killing of Nemtsov is a symptom of the slow and inexorable drift of Russia away from Europe, and into a no-man's-land where the demons are limitless wealth, extreme poverty, political violence and arbitrary policing.

Le Figaro's editorial warns against letting Putin's Russia get too far away. That would be a serious mistake from both an economic and a strategic point of view. But real dialogue will only become possible when the Kremlin shows some acceptance of the value systems which, technically at least, determine the way the rest of Europe is run.

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