France put faith in winning formula

by Staff Writer

In selecting France's team for their Rugby World Cup semi-final against Wales coach Marc Lièvremont has kept faith with the same group of players who saw off England in such a thrilling manner at the last-eight stage.

"If it is not broken, don't fix it," the saying goes. But Lièvremont's decision to stick with a winning formula ahead of Saturday's match at Eden Park is a logical choice that is not necessarily supported by statistical evidence.

Four times Les Blues have gone into vital RWC matches with an unchanged line-up on the back of a famous victory and lost. It happened in the finals of 1987 and 1999 after last-four wins over Australia and New Zealand, and at the past two World Cups where quarter-final triumphs over Ireland and the All Blacks were followed by defeats at the hands of England.

Lièvremont, who played in that momentous 1999 win over the All Blacks, said: "We kept looking back to our victory in the semi-final and struggled to focus ahead of us on the final."

He admitted France's semi-final flop four years ago after again beating New Zealand "was part of our thinking" ahead of Tuesday's team selection.

Loss of concentration

"In 2007 the intensity was incredible against the All Blacks in the quarter-final," Lièvremont said. "After talking about it with more senior players, there was also a certain loss of concentration following the euphoria.

"People can criticise (then France coach) Bernard Laporte as much as they want but it is very difficult not to select the same team that proved itself worthy."

Lièvremont insisted he would have made changes to counter specific demands presented by the Welsh team had he deemed it necessary and the coach did add Fulgence Ouedraogo and Jean-Marc Doussain to the squad as provisional replacements.

With Dimitri Yachvili having suffered a thigh injury against England, the presence of Toulouse scrum half Doussain raised speculation over the first-choice No.9's fitness. "Yachvili will play," said Lièvremont. "He will be rested at least until Thursday but he will play."

The presence of Montpellier back row Ouedraogo provides cover for Imanol Harinordoquy and Julien Bonnaire, who also picked up knocks on Saturday.

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