Fri, Nov 12, 2004 - Page 22 News List

France's forwards spook nervous Australia

AFP , PARIS AND DUBLIN

Australian flanker George Smith has become the scourge of his opponents over the past four years and tomorrow he and his fellow back row forwards hopes to claim another famous scalp in the shape of Europe's top trio when they play France at the Stade de France.

The 24-year-old dreadlocked star admits it is a big ask for him, Phil Waugh and the relatively inexperienced John Roe to overcome their French counterparts Olivier Magne, Serge Betsen and Imanol Harinordoquy but it was a challenge he was ready for.

Smith agreed with Magne, who has the extra burden on him to play out of his skin as French coach Bernard Laporte has broken his oft quoted rule of playing someone who isn't playing rugby for his club, that it would be a case of the French conducting an air war against the Aussies' preferred arena of a ground war.

"To want to be the best in the world you have to beat the best," said Smith, who wins his 45th cap four years after making his debut against the same opposition.

"They are very experienced and have played alongside each other for a long time.

"We have different styles where they are stronger in the lineout and we are quicker round the pitch but we are both out there to play exciting rugby," added Smith, who was named man of the match in the third and decisive Test against the British and Irish Lions in 2001.

Smith admitted that his team would have to step up their game from the one against Scotland where they only performed for the first half before allowing the Scots back into it in the 31-14 victory.

"The French are a lot tougher round the park and love the confrontational stuff.

"We played very well in the first-half of the Scottish match but then had a poor second half and we cannot afford to do so against the French," said the ACT Brumbies firebrand.

Smith, who is as placid off the pitch as he is lively on it, admitted that in Betsen especially he faced a tough battle hardened opponent.

"He is a work horse in defense and gets around the pitch," said Smith, though when pressed to say how good a player he was he conceded he was a good one rather than a great one.

Smith said that it had taken a while to get over the heartbreaking defeat to England in the dying seconds of extra-time in the World Cup. Australia also failed to land the Tri-Nations title -- they lost to South Africa in the final match -- for added extra incentive to beat the French.

"We were gutted by the defeat to England and were not too pleased with not winning the Tri-Nations, though to be fair the Springboks have come on a lot under Jake White," he said.

"If France produce the type of rugby they did in their 43-21 defeat of the Irish at the World Cup then we are certainly going to have to step up our game but a win for us would do immeasurable good to our confidence," Smith said.

South Africa vs Ireland

Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has injected a touch of spice into the build-up to tomorrow's meeting with South Africa by revealing his desire to settle a score with Springbok coach Jake White.

O'Sullivan made no attempt to conceal his lingering irritation over some dismissive comments made by White during Ireland's 2-0 series defeat in South Africa in June.

The Springbok coach was quoted then as saying South Africa should not read too much into beating Ireland and that Brian O'Driscoll was the only Irishman he would have in his team.

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