Thu, Oct 04, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Mind games begin at World Cup

AP , PARISAP, CARDIFF, WALESAP, CARDIFF, WALES

France's Lionel Beauxis kicks for points in the Rugby World Cup Group D match between France and Georgia in Marseille, France, on Sept. 30. French coach Bernard Laporte has decided to field Beauxis at flyhalf alongside scrumhalf Jean-Baptiste Elissalde for Saturday's quarter-final.

PHOTO: AP

The Rugby World Cup quarter-finals don't kick off until the weekend yet the mind games have already begun.

New Zealand-France and Australia-England are two games worthy of the final and, with so much is at stake at this stage, no one wants to give the other side an advantage.

France coach Bernard Laporte, for example, stresses that his team has recovered totally from its shock 17-12 loss to Argentina in the opening match of the championship and doesn't consider the All Blacks unbeatable.

Our objectives "have not changed. We want to win this World Cup and, to do that, we have to win three more matches," he told reporters in Cardiff on Tuesday during the buildup to Saturday's showdown at the Millennium Stadium. "In any case we would have had to play New Zealand at one stage or another. The way I look at it it's the same as having to play Australia in the quarter-finals."

Laporte said he would review New Zealand's Tri-Nations matches to find weaknesses exposed by Australia and South Africa.

"We are going to try to detect the cracks. After all they're not supermen," he said. "They've got flaws."

Team captain Raphael Ibanez took the same line.

"We know they're very confident, but you can knock their machine out of synch; throw some sand into the gearbox," the veteran hooker said. "When that happens their beliefs can turn into doubts."

The Aussies and English have been sniping at each verbally for decades, chiefly about cricket, rugby union and rugby league. The Australian Rugby Union's chief executive fueled the rivalry by saying he was "stating the bleeding obvious" that all Australians "hated" England when it came to sports.

"Obviously between the countries there is a big rivalry, not just in rugby, but across sport," England backrower Lawrence Dallaglio said.

"The hype, like in 2003, will always be there, we don't need players adding to it. We don't need motivation to play in a game like this. If they want to give us extra motivation, that's fine. The prospect of having to go home and watch the last two weeks of the competition is all the motivation you need," Dallaglio said.

South Africa's preparations for what should be a routine victory over Fiji in Marseille have been hampered by injuries to two frontrowers.

Regular tighthead prop Brendon Botha was forced out of the tournament after injuring his left knee in a 64-15 win over the US on Sunday. Then C.J. van der Linde, who replaced him against the Americans, injured his left knee in a training run on Tuesday. He was undergoing scans to determine how serious it was.

Argentina coach Marcelo Loffreda described Scotland goalkicker Chris Paterson as "infallible" after he kicked all his team's points in an 18-16 victory over Italy to reach the quarter-finals.

"Discipline is very important. We have to reduce the penalties to a minimum. We conceded a lot of penalties against Ireland and we can't make too many mistakes against Scotland because Paterson is infallible," Loffreda said ahead of Sunday's game in France.

"Italy played better than them but they were very undisciplined and they paid for that. But it's very wrong to think Scotland are just a kicker and 14 players behind him. Our match against Scotland will be even more difficult than the one we played against Ireland. Scotland have a great running game, very fast, and they have a strong pack of forwards," Loffreda said.

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