Sat, Oct 01, 2011 - Page 20 News List

RUGBY WORLD CUP: France hope to kill rumors of strife


From left, France’s center Aurelien Rougerie, flanker Julien Bonnaire and lock Pascal Pape joke around during their Captain’s Run yesterday in Wellington, New Zealand.

Photo: AFP

France will bid to put rumors of internal strife to bed in bagging the one point from their final pool match against Tonga today that will see them progress to the quarter-finals.

France grabbed a maximum 10 points from their openers against Japan and Canada, but were then soundly beaten 37-17 by New Zealand. Tonga, who beat Japan, but went down to Canada and the All Blacks, can mathematically still make it through to the last eight if they score four tries and win by more than seven points, denying France a bonus point.

In echoes of Raymond Domen-ech’s ill-fated campaign at last year’s soccer World Cup, France coach Marc Lievremont has found himself fending off reports of a potential player mutiny and he is at odds with French journalists covering the team, but France have a realistic path to the final at Eden Park on Oct. 23, with a likely quarter-final against England followed by a semi against another Six Nations team.

Lievremont, who played flanker in the France team that reached the 1999 World Cup final, selected a team for the Tonga match that he said would be very close to the one he has in mind for the quarter-finals, should they advance.

Regular scrumhalf Morgan Parra has been confirmed at flyhalf, while Maxime Medard takes over from Damien Traille at fullback.

William Servat replaces Dimitri Szarzewski at hooker, while No. 8 Raphael Lakafia comes in for Louis Picamoles, with Alexis Palisson dropping in at wing for Medard.

“Being consistent is a good thing for us. With Morgan Parra and Maxime Mermoz, we are starting to gel and work well together, and that is vital,” center Aurelien Rougerie said.

“We talk a lot, which is good in order to compensate for our relative lack of experience together in those three positions. Chances are it’ll be a loose game because the Tongans are also after a qualification spot, or even a third place in order to secure their berth in the next World Cup,” he added.

France will once again be without prop Nicolas Mas, who has yet to recover from a hamstring strain, but flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc, who has been named on the bench, has been given the all-clear after receiving a blow to the head when scoring a try against the All Blacks.

Captain Finau Maka, a long-time player in the French Top 14, was recalled for the Tonga team as one of four changes his brother Isitolo made to the team that beat Japan 31-18 last week.

Maka takes over from Sione Vaiomo’unga at open-side flanker, the only other change in the pack being the experienced Kisi Pulu going at tight-head instead of Taufa’ao Filise.

There are also two changes in the backs, Viliame Iongi coming in for Fetu’u Vainikolo on the right wing and Andrew Ma’ilei taking over a center berth from Alipate Fatafehi, who drops to the bench.

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