Sun, Aug 26, 2007 - Page 23 News List

RUGBY WORLD CUP: World Cup fever beginning to spread to French players


France rugby scrumhalf Pierre Mignoni, in front of forward Sebastien Chabal, throws the ball during a training session in Marcoussis, south of Paris, on Friday, ahead of the upcoming Rugby World Cup. France face Wales today in their final Rugby World Cup preparatory match in Cardiff.


The World Cup fever that is gripping France has started to make an impression on the national team's players, head coach Bernard Laporte has said.

"The players are concentrated because they can feel that the competition is almost upon us," Laporte said. "There's a lot of competition and everyone wants to win their place or is looking to prove themselves."

It was last Saturday's match against England in Marseille, a 22-9 victory, that served as a wake up call for the French players, Laporte said.

"The match in Marseille was a moving moment. The players woke up to the event. It's true that in Marseille it's always special, but this time it was 10 times stronger than normal," the coach said.

"Since then we have realized the expectation we're facing by the visits we've had from politicians and artists. These are important visits for our sport," he said.

The big thing for Laporte is the growing confidence in his group of players, who have not been knocked out of their stride by the maulings they suffered at the hands of New Zealand in June.

France conceded more than 100 points in two matches, scoring just 21 in reply and that after being well beaten twice at home by the All Blacks last November.

"Give me a thermometer which would allow me to measure the confidence and I could tell you [just how high it is]," Laporte enthused.

Two victories in a row over the reigning world champions, including one at Twickenham, 21-15 courtesy of a last minute try, have bolstered the squad's confidence and France head to Wales today for their final warm-up.

"What's important is the way [we play]. While it was important for us to beat the English in Marseille, because it was a point of reference for us -- our last match in France before the World Cup -- this time, as at Twickenham, we don't care about the result," the French coach said.

"So take risks and above all show up in the contact areas. We want to feel that we are moving forward from one match to the next no matter which team lines up against us," he said.

Despite his confidence, Laporte still feels there is much work to be done, after a little rest following the Welsh game.

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