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.
Damien Traille will line up at fullback, Lionel Beauxis is flyhalf and Frederic Michalak sits on the bench when France take on New Zealand in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
Announcing his lineup on Wednesday, coach Bernard Laporte has decided to field Beauxis alongside scrumhalf Jean-Baptiste Elissalde with no sign of David Skrela, his first choice No. 10 at the start of the championship who has been carrying an Achilles tendon injury.
Lineup: Damien Traille, Vincent Clerc, David Marty, Yannick Jauzion, Cedric Heymans, Lionel Beauxis, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde; Olivier Milloud, Raphael Ibanez (captain), Pieter de Villiers, Fabien Pelous, Jerome Thion, Serge Betsen, Thierry Dusautoir, Julien Bonnaire.
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Jean-Baptiste Poux, Sebastien Chabal, Imanol Harinordoquy, Frederic Michalak, Christophe Dominici, Clement Poitrenaud.
Lock Keith Robinson is a shock starter for New Zealand while leading tryscorer Doug Howlett will sit out the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against France at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Injured backs Dan Carter, Mils Muliaina and Leon MacDonald were passed fit in the team named on Tuesday. It was hoped Carter will be 100 percent over his calf strain by the end of the week.
"This selection was the most difficult since we started selecting [in 2004]," coach Graham Henry said.
Lineup: Leon MacDonald, Joe Rokocoko, Mils Muliaina, Luke McAlister, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Daniel Carter, Byron Kelleher; Tony Woodcock, Anton Oliver, Carl Hayman, Keith Robinson, Ali Williams, Jerry Collins, Richie McCaw (captain), Rodney So'oialo.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Neemia Tialata, Chris Jack, Chris Masoe, Brendon Leonard, Nick Evans, Isaia Toeava.
Hong Kong media reported that police briefly detained a man in a Liverpool team jersey who shouted “long live Liverpool” during anti-government protests on Wednesday, over suspicion that he was inciting independence. In-Media reported that the man was across the street from police officers who were conducting stop-and-searches on a group of protesters, when he shouted: “Long live Liverpool.” Others reportedly cheered and joined in the chant, before officers detained him. The man told In-Media that police had accused him of inciting Hong Kong independence, which now is a punishable crime. He said that he has been a fan of the English soccer
WOLFSBURG BEATEN: Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski scored from a penalty, his 34th league goal this season, finishing as the top Bundesliga scorer for the fifth time Werder Bremen gave themselves hope of avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga by thrashing Cologne 6-1 to grab a playoff place on the last day of the season, while champions Bayern Munich routed VfL Wolfsburg before lifting the trophy on Saturday. Japan striker Yuya Osako scored twice as Bremen stole the lifeline of the relegation/promotion playoff place from Fortuna Duesseldorf, who lost 3-0 against Union Berlin and were relegated with SC Paderborn, finishing one point behind Bremen. “We put in a great performance under pressure, but we are aware that we haven’t achieved anything — in the relegation playoff, the emotions will be
Dustin Poirier won a thrilling unanimous decision over Dan Hooker on Saturday, surviving a brutal second round and persevering to finish a well-rounded performance in the main event at the UFC’s corporate gym. Mike Perry also ended his two-fight skid with a one-sided unanimous decision over Mickey Gall in the penultimate fight of the UFC’s fifth consecutive fan-free event in its hometown. The main event was a barn-burner from the opening round, with both lightweights trading wicked strikes and displaying minimal regard for defense. The second round was a particular spectacle, with each fighter badly hurting the other while throwing punches and
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is already in Florida with the rest of his Toronto teammates, and he knows the time to take a stand and counter the NBA plan to restart the season has passed, but his opinion on the matter has not changed. “It sucks,” VanVleet said on Monday in a videoconference of his choice to return to the court during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter campaign. “It’s terrible timing, but that’s been 2020 for us. We all know the right thing to do is to not play, to take a stand. Morally, yes, that makes sense, but