Lievremont fears repeat of 1999 mistakes

by Staff Writer

France coach Marc Lièvremont has expressed fears his team could repeat the mistakes that cost them the Rugby World Cup 12 years ago when players over-celebrated a semi-final win.

Lièvremont criticised some of his players on Sunday for going out on the town after their last-four win over Wales on Saturday night.

The Frenchman drew comparisons to his own experience from 1999, although he believes on this occasion it will not affect France's chances of winning the Webb Ellis Cup.

Lièvremont played in the last-four victory over New Zealand 12 years ago and in the subsequent 35-12 defeat by Australia in the final.

Speaking about his players' celebrations after Saturday's win, Lièvremont said: "The problem is that we are not world champions yet and we just qualified for the final.

"This reminds me of 1999 when there were four days of celebration after the semi-final."

Lièvremont told his players on Sunday morning that they were "selfish and disobedient" but later added that "a cigarette, dessert or couple of drinks" would not interfere with their performances in the final.

Plain talking

He went to bed in a good mood after the 9-8 semi-final triumph at Eden Park but that changed when he was told about his players' actions.

"I asked them not to go out and I learned a little later some of them did," Lièvremont said. "We spoke about it this morning and I told them what I thought of them.

"They were selfish, disobedient and that for four years they have been on my case. But at the end of the day it won't stand in the way of the fact that we are in the final.

"We spoke about why they went out and it is really not that important. In the end, a cigarette, a dessert after dinner or a couple of drinks will not affect how you play in the final.

Lièvremont planned to watch the second semi-final between Australia and New Zealand on television on Sunday night and said the outcome of the match would determine whether he makes changes to his starting line-up for the final next Sunday.

He said he would like to face the hosts in what would be a repeat of the inaugural RWC final in 1987 when New Zealand beat France 29-9.

"For me it would be a dream to play the All Blacks in the final,'' he said.

Referee 'was right'

Lièvremont admitted that he had watched a rerun of the match against Wales and that he was particularly impressed by how his defence stood their ground late in the contest.

"We used everything in our French armoury in order to win this match," he said.

He was also convinced the decision to send off Wales captain Sam Warburton for a dangerous tackle was correct. "I thought the sending-off was totally justified and it is not my fault if other people do not agree," he said.

Defence coach David Ellis revealed that the French players talked at half-time about the difficulty of playing a Welsh side down to 14 players.

"The Welsh have a great character and I thought they came out fantastically in the second half," said Ellis. "They were close to winning the game.

"But towards the end we were very disciplined and the last sequence had more than 20 phases. We prevented them from making any progress and we won."

France have no major injuries. Morgan Parra has a minor neck problem and Julien Bonnaire has a lower back issue so both will rest from training for three days.

Lièvremont is not taking any chances with his preparations. "Essentially I will copy and paste what we did in the last two weeks,'' he said.

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