France won't hear of easier World Cup path

by Staff Writer

France coach Marc Lievremont has scoffed at suggestions he would prefer to lose to New Zealand on Saturday to secure an easier path in the Rugby World Cup knockout stages.

Ireland's stunning win over Australia on Saturday has re-distributed the cards with the likelihood they will top Pool C, pushing Australia into the same half as title favourites the All Blacks and defending champions South Africa.

A loss at Eden Park to New Zealand would likely mean that France would finish second in their pool and end up alongside their traditional Six Nations rivals instead in the other half.

"Our objective is to qualify (for the last eight), and to win all our matches," said Lievremont.

"How can anyone even think we would prepare for a match against New Zealand with the idea that we might throw it in the back of our minds."

"Anyway, if we play against the All Blacks, the way we played our first two games, then the matter will be quickly resolved and it will be second place for us."

The French have two wins under their belt - against Japan and Canada - a maximum 10 points and the 93 points they have scored is the second best in the tournament behind the All Blacks.

But Lievremont is far from pleased with the way things have gone so far saying that "there are still too many mistakes being made."

"I am only too aware of the weaknesses my team have shown in the first two games and we need to do better," he said.

"We will do our best to get fully prepared to take on these guys (All Blacks), who are just excellent."

"There is no doubt that the All Blacks will be fully determined to win and to win well. I have no doubt about that."

Spurring on the New Zealanders will be the knowledge that the last time these two teams met in a World Cup match, France, then under Bernard Laporte, pulled off a stunning win 20-18 in Cardiff in a quarter-final tie.

Lievremont himself was a flanker in the French team that blasted away the All Blacks 43-31 in the 1999 World Cup semi-finals before losing to Australia in the final.

So he knows that there will be no mercy shown at Eden Park before a packed 60,000 crowd on Saturday.

There was good news for the French in that there were no new injuries to report from the 46-19 win over Canada here on Sunday apart from a bad gash under the left eye of prop Jean-Baptiste Poux, which needed stitches, and an ankle sprain for hooker William Servat.

Tight-head prop Nicolas Mas though is still recovering from a pulled hamstring and fly-half replacement, the uncapped Jan-Marc Doussain, was not due to arrive in Auckland until later Monday.

Doussain replaces the veteran David Skrela who was ruled out of the tournament after picking up a bad shoulder injury in the 47-21 win over Japan.

Lievremont said of Doussain it would be "difficult to select him this weekend, even impossible," meaning another start at No. 10 for Francois Trinh-Duc.

For the scrum-half position Morgan Parra did his chances of playing against New Zealand a world of good with a superb place-kicking display against Canada, but Lievremont said he was also considering Dimitri Yachvili.

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