Why self-destructive France should not be ruled out

It is one of the oldest clichés in Rugby, and yet even today you still do not know which French team will turn up on match day. For this reason, with an inexperienced fly-half and on the back of arguably their worst defeat in history, Les Bleus remain a threat to England’s chances of progressing to the semi-finals. England supporters may feel aggrieved that at times their side does not play to it’s potential, or seems to leak constant stories of discrepancies much to the embarrassment of everyone from the coach to the supporters. But imagine trying to back the French.

The main reason why France can not be ruled out is mainly down to the quality of their players named in the French XV for Saturday morning. The return of William Servat and Nicolas Mas is a big boost to a French scrum that has struggled for consistency throughout this tournament. On top of that, Servat is far away the best hooker in France, the Toulouse number two’s experience trumping his age. In addition, the return of action man Imanol Harinordoquy at number eight is long overdue. The Basque beast’s physicality will be taken up a couple of notches given his public declaration in the past of his loathing of the English.

Another boost has been the selection of Aurélien Rougerie, with the initial fear of him having suffered a shoulder dislocation against Tonga proving untrue. Such a devastating strike runner, Manu Tuilagi so far has tackled everything in front of him down the 13 channel, but no one as devastating as the Clermont captain. If he and his Catalan counterpart Maxime Mermoz can combine fluidly then England will have their work cut out. And that’s all before the ball gets out wide to Vincent Clerc, Alexis Palisson and Maxime Médard.

With regards to Morgan Parra, a so far crumbling experiment in whom Lievremont is keeping his faith at the risk of his reputation, if he is going to show that he really can command the fly-half position, Saturday would be a good time to start. I have little doubt that he is capable of playing 10, in the same mould as Jean-Baptiste Elissade used to switch between positions for both Toulouse and France during his career. He has the handling and kicking game to play there, and his defence for a small man is good. Against the big running of loose forwards and centres in both All Black and Tongan shirts however, he has struggled to front up, defending a channel that is naturally alien to him.

Relations within the French camp may have been petty, with head coach and leading players as much to blame as each other, but the moment when Marc Lievremont announced that his desire to have a beer with his players had fallen on death ears, France’s World Cup campaign sounded more like the setting of a 1950s film noir masterpiece, Lievremont propping up the bar on his own in black and white with no one beside him. As the updates and press conferences have progressed this week, with all parties coming out and proclaiming the divisions are non-existent, France are beginning to resemble a squad once again. What’s more, all of the hurt, shame and acrimony of the last four weeks will be forgotten instantly if France beat England. Never have Les Bleus had so much to prove.

Lastly, Parra and Dimitri Yachvili are drop goal specialists. Let’s hope England have been working on their discipline.

by Ben Coles

8 thoughts on “Why self-destructive France should not be ruled out

  1. I always reckon that some of the French players save their best for England – Yachvilli and Harinordoquy for example. Sometimes with other opponents they will just give a gallic shrug and not care. Regardless which France turns up – bring on “Le Crunch” on Saturday, I’m going to be glued to the screen!

    1. “I always reckon that some of the French players save their best for England” bahahaha. Whatever default response makes you happy. I can never believe how into ‘saving face’ English people are. If you beat France – It was a classic. You whip them – England the best now and forever. They beat you – France will win it. They whip you – Johnson must go, France will win it. Always so predictable. To be fair though, I’m still learning your cutthroat sense of humor.

      1. Balon, I won’t make any comments about your posts in reply to blogs about Ireland! :-) However I think that you are mistaking me for the press!

        If we win it will be a relief and given how we’ve played so far a surprise. If I said we’re going to go out and thrash them ’cause they’re in disarray I would have been accused of English arrogance. We just have to learn to live with being unable to win this particular argument!

        For the record, I don’t know who’s going to win as its too close to call – same as for Ireland v Wales, and also for the record, I don’t think France have got a hope of winning the RWC. However I don’t write the papers so can’t say how they will call it on Sunday/Monday. You’re probably right.

        Bet you the Irish papers say you’ll make the final if you beat Wales!

  2. I’m a little concerened with the england team selection! MJ have kept his faith with Stevens and dropped Lawes, both big mistakes against this French pack! Also why on earth have we picked 5 forward replacements???? We now have 4 locks in the match day 22??? Leaving only Bananahan to cover any backline injuries this is surely pure folly!? Finally, I know I have banged on about this but why the f*ck haven’t we brought out a replacement for sheridan? We’ve played the last 2 matched with a 29 man squad it all so frustrating! I am rapidly loosing all confidence that MJ knows what he is doing.

    Rant over, the French seemed to have rallied a la Eng 2007 and I think they are going to be a very very dangerous animal. I just hope that we can play explosive rugby from the start get them on the back foot and hope they blow up!

  3. Ben – England did bring over a replacement. Thomas Waldrom. We have a full 30 man squad, and have had for 2 weeks nows.

    1. Yup have just been informed of that, D’oh! I knew that he came out as a temporary replacment cover for Easter but hadn’t heard that he had been made Sheridans offical replacement

  4. France always have ONE good performance in a world cup. They haven’t had one yet.

    I do find the selection worrying, but the hard work will be done up front. Second half bringing in Lawes and Shaw to bolster the pack will be huge.

    I do think France’s weak point is Parra. Bombing runs of Tuilagi and Foden should be the target between their 9 and 10.

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