Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Bernard Laporte banks on Kiwi-beaters

AFP , MARCOUSSIS, FRANCE

England hooker George Chuter takes part in a training session in a gymnasium in Paris on Tuesday ahead of the team's Rugby World Cup semi-final match against France.

PHOTO: AFP

France coach Bernard Laporte has kept faith with the team that scored an upset win over New Zealand in the quarter-final to play England in the World Cup last-four showdown at the Stade de France on Saturday.

Laporte made no changes from the 22-strong squad that rebounded to shock the All Blacks 20-18 and keep on track their bid for a first-ever World Cup title.

"Who did not perform?" Laporte asked. "It would have been really difficult to leave out a player."

Damien Traille was given a second Test start at fullback, again in preference to Clement Poitrenaud, who joins Frederic Michalak and veteran winger Christophe Dominci on the bench.

Former captain Fabien Pelous, France's most-capped player with 117 Test appearances behind him, was chosen ahead of Lionel Nallet to play alongside Jerome Thion in the second row.

Fans' favorite Sebastien Chabal, who can play as both a lock and a back-row forward, was left on a bench full of potential "impact" players along with powerhouse forward Imanol Harinordoquy, who played all but five minutes of the game against New Zealand after Serge Betsen was knocked out.

Flanker Betsen, however, was given the green light to play England and lines up alongside Julien Bonnaire and Thierry Dusautoir, outstanding in the defeat of New Zealand which was built on a sterling defensive showing that saw 178 tackles made by the French.

"He's passed all the medical tests," Laporte said of Betsen. "If we'd had the slightest doubt, we wouldn't have picked Serge."

The England front-row will likely face a much more testing game against Olivier Milloud, Raphael Ibanez and South Africa-born Pieter de Villiers than that of Australia, which folded in the scrum and was largely anonymous in broken play.

Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Lionel Beauxis start at half-back with Yannick Jauzion and David Marty again pairing up in midfield, alongside Cedric Heymans and Vincent Clerc on the wing.

The selection hints once again at a reliance on a kicking game based around the Howitzer-like clearances of Beauxis, Heymans and Traille.

"We wouldn't be lying if we say that we want to get the ball out of our own 30m and play in the opponent's half. All teams want to avoid playing in their half and conceding the least number of points possible," team manager Jo Maso said.

Both France and defending champions England have reached the last four despite losing crucial pool games which condemned them to tricky quarter-final assignments.

France lost the opening game of the tournament 17-12 to Argentina while England suffered a record 36-0 defeat to South Africa.

However, both teams have turned their tournaments around by advancing to the semi-finals.

France (15-1):

Damien Traille, Vincent Clerc, David Marty, Yannick Jauzion, Cedric Heymans, Lionel Beauxis, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, Julien Bonnaire, Thierry Dusautoir, Serge Betsen, Jerome Thion, Fabien Pelous, Pieter de Villiers, Raphael Ibanez (captain), Olivier Milloud.

Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Jean-Baptiste Poux, Sebastien Chabal, Imanol Harinordoquy, Frederic Michalak, Clement Poitrenaud, Christophe Dominici.

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