Tue, Aug 28, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Victory inspires French confidence

AFP , CARDIFFAP, BRIDGEVIEW, ILLINOIS

Wales winger Shane Williams, left, is tackled by France flanker and captain Serge Betsen at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

France coach Bernard Laporte may not like it, but his players are more than happy to ride a wave of confidence just 11 days away from their World Cup opener against Argentina.

The Six Nations champions were impressive in a 34-7 warm-up defeat of Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Sunday to follow two wins over defending world champions England.

France's only concern was conceding a first try in those three matches when James Hook scored in the first half.

"It's great for the confidence just ahead of the World Cup," said center David Skrela who seized his opportunity in the absence of the injured David Marty in a team showing 11 changes from the side that beat England 22-9 last week.

"We showed a lot of desire and determination and the fact that we scored four tries is even more of a positive. We also put into action everything we have worked on in training," he said.

Hooker Dimitri Szarzewski believes that France are also reaching their physical peak just at the right time ahead of the marathon World Cup which will be played out on home soil.

"We said that it was necessary to increase our level and I believe we did that against Wales," he said.

Acting skipper Serge Betsen, who was man of the match in Cardiff, said that France sent out a message to their World Cup rivals that even when they make wholesale changes, they are still a formidable force.

"Despite the changes, we kept our rhythm and our shape," Betsen said.

Scrumhalf Pierre Mignoni praised his team's free-scoring style but admitted that the eventual World Cup winners will be the team who defend with strength as well as attack with style.

"Our defense is good," said Mignoni, who scored one of his side's tries on Sunday. "But we can improve and you need to have the best defense if you are to go far."

Laporte, hoping to be the coach of a first ever World Cup-winning French side, did his best to keep talk of a triumph on home soil in check.

"We don't care about talk of being favorites. The important thing is what we tell each other," Laporte said.

France raced into an early 17-0 lead which all but put the result beyond doubt.

Their first try featured a superb handling move which led to a score for lock Jerome Thion and Mignoni also got on the scoresheet following Imanol Harinordoquy's charge down of Dwayne Peel's kick.

Wales scored a try, on the stroke of half-time, through flyhalf James Hook but were kept pointless in the second half where Aurelien Rougerie and replacement hooker Sebastien Bruno both crossed the Welsh line.

France flyhalf Lionel Beauxis kicked 12 points with substitute Jean-Baptiste Elissalde adding the extras for Bruno's last minute score.

"What is reassuring is that despite the changes, the players played with the same spirit. But to win the World Cup we need to do it again from September 7 [when France play their opening match against Argentina]," Laporte said.

"It was difficult out there but our defense was excellent and there was a real desire to move the ball, especially in the second 20 minutes of the first half," he said.

The US lost to Irish province Munster 10-6 on Sunday in its only warmup match for the rugby World Cup.

The Eagles led 6-0 on two penalties by captain Mike Hercus at Toyota Park. Munster, last year's European champions, halved the deficit straight after the break with a Paul Warwick penalty.

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