RWC 2007: Laporte instructs players to forget weekend victory


Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 20

France coach Bernard Laporte has told his players it's time to forget their thrilling Rugby World Cup victory over New Zealand. Beating defending champion England in the semi-final could be even harder.

Even though France rallied from a 13-0 deficit to knock out hot favorites New Zealand 20-18 on Saturday, Laporte says his players would be wrong to think that Saturday's match against rejuvenated England will be easier.

"We saw against Australia that England is healthy again," Laporte said yesterday, referring to England's 12-10 upset quarter-final win over the Wallabies. "We know their abilities, the quality of their players. It will be a very, very hard match against a pack that is very strong."

As well as a fearsome pack led by captain Phil Vickery and Andrew Sheridan, England have been lifted by the return of flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson since they lost 36-0 to South Africa in group play.

Wilkinson, plagued by injuries since scoring the winning drop goal against Australia in the 2003 final, kicked all 12 points against Australia but is still nowhere near his best.

"He has come back well, although he missed a couple of kicks [against Australia]," Laporte said. "He is one of the motors in this team and he gives them confidence. Is he at his best level? It's hard to say, you should ask him. But he is very much in form."

Laporte however denied that France were seeking revenge for their 24-7 defeat to England in the semi-finals four years ago.