Sat, Nov 18, 2006 - Page 19 News List

France team desperate for a win against Kiwis

FRENCH PRIDE Laporte's men were humbled by the All Blacks last weekend and are determined to avoid a rout in their centennial match at the Stade De France

AFP , PARIS

New Zealand winger Joe Rokocoko grimaces as he speaks to journalists during a press conference in Paris on Wednesday. New Zealand play France at the Saint Denis' Stade De France stadium outside Paris today.

PHOTO: AP

France face New Zealand in the second of two autumn Tests today desperate to avenge last week's humiliating 47-3 defeat.

France coach Bernard Laporte has wielded the axe and made seven changes to the side that suffered that embarrassing seven-try rout in Lyon.

"We've learned our lessons from the crushing defeat in the first test," team manager Jo Maso said.

Ibanez captain

Veteran hooker Raphael Ibanez will captain the side, with Fabien Pelous out injured. In comes abrasive flanker Remy Martin, with the equally tough Serge Betsen named as a replacement.

Bourgoin prop Olivier Milloud will start while Toulouse's Jean-Baptiste Elissalde replaces Dimitri Yachvili at scrumhalf to partner Damien Traille for the first time.

Elissalde's club teammate Cedric Heymans replaces Christophe Dominici on the right wing while the fullback spot goes to Agen's Pepito Elhorga, who replaces Julien Laharrague.

Winger Aurelien Rougerie, whose badly missed tackle on Sitiveni Sivivatu handed his opposite number the All Blacks their opening try in the Lyon match, said the French camp could not afford to be pessimistic.

"The French team didn't beat the Springboks [36-26] in June by waving a magic wand. We have to take up the right path again. To be positive," Rougerie said. "Everyone must raise their level individually and we will raise our level as a group. And we must improve our organization defensively."

The All Blacks' assistant coach Wayne Smith said his side was braced for a backlash from France, adding that Laporte had been right to ring the changes after his side suffered their largest home defeat in Lyon which saw the French players roundly booed and whistled off the pitch.

"France are under a lot of pressure from the French to try to play a bit more," said Smith, who was head coach of New Zealand for the 2000 and 2001 seasons, with a record of 12 wins from 17 games.

"They had to make some changes. It shows they're being proactive. They look as if they've stiffened up the attack. We expect them to take us on up front and be aggressive," he said.

The All Blacks show five changes from Lyon, notably in the centers, where the explosive Ma'a Nonu has been selected alongside Mils Muliaina. Chris Jack returns at lock, Keven Mealamu at hooker and Byron Kelleher at scrumhalf.

fired-up

Smith said he was "expecting France to be a lot better. They would have hated to be smacked like that and criticized by their own people, public and media."

The former outside-half, capped 17 times by the All Blacks in the early 1980s, added that France's problems would not be immediately solved on the training ground.

"I think training will be irrelevant. It's a mental question: who'll turn up on the day. In any case I think they'll throw everything against us.

"Our job is to make sure we go out at 9pm on Saturday and put in a performance we can be proud of," Smith said of a game that will also celebrate 100 years of Test rugby in France.

Teams (15-1)

France

Pepito Elhorga (Agen); Aurelien Rougerie (Clermont), Florian Fritz (Toulouse), Yannick Jauzion (Toulouse), Cedric Heymans (Toulouse); Damien Traille (Biarritz), Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (Toulouse); Remy Martin (Stade Francais), Elvis Vermeulen (Clermont), Julien Bonnaire (Bourgoin); Pascal Pape (Castres), Lionel Nallet (Castres); Pieter De Villiers (Stade Francais), Raphael Ibanez (Wasps/ENG, capt), Olivier Milloud (Bourgoin)

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