Beaten France class of 2007 wary of semifinal woe

French players involved in the national team’s semifinal exit at the last World Cup have vowed to do their best to prevent it happening again when they meet Wales on Saturday.

Twelve of France’s 30 players at this World Cup lived through the disappointment of four years ago on home soil, with nine in the match-day 22 and three in the starting XV: wing Vincent Clerc and flankers Julien Bonnaire and Thierry Dusautoir, who will captain the side at Auckland’s Eden Park this weekend.

After pulling off a shock 20-18 victory over favourites New Zealand in the 2007 quarterfinal in Cardiff, the French imploded in the semifinal against England, who went on to lose to South Africa in the final.

This time around, France advanced from their pool having suffered defeats by the All Blacks and Tonga, the latter after a shocking display overshadowed by rumours of rifts between management and the players.

They defied the critics by then rebounding to beat England 19-12 in last week’s quarterfinal, having been knocked out of the last two World Cups by their old rivals.

But the French, losing finalists in 1987 and 1999 but yet to win the World Cup, quickly realised they had to keep a lid on any celebrations.

“We spoke about it as soon as the whistle went,” Dusautoir said of the team’s achievement of reaching the final four.

“There are many of us in the squad who went through 2007, we know very well what can happen after an excess of euphoria.”

‘Coming down’
Hooker Dimitri Szarzewski added: “We all had enormous regrets after that 2007 match against England. We couldn’t wait for the next World Cup.

“We have some problems but we must not let this chance to get into the final escape us.”

Centre Aurelien Rougerie said it was a question of the team “coming down from our little cloud” after progressing into the semifinals.

“I had the opportunity of living through 2007, even off the pitch because I wasn’t playing,” the Clermont veteran said.

“Against the All Blacks, it was a little like an early final. Afterwards, we were too euphoric, training fell off a little, but it’s not at all like that today.

Flanker Bonnaire said the French reaction to reaching the semifinals this time round was tempered by the knowledge the troubled England side they beat last Sunday were not in the same league as the New Zealand team of four years ago.

“At the time, the All Blacks were unbeaten for a number of matches,” he said.

“This time around, we’re keeping our feet firmly on the ground with a great desire to continue the adventure.”

The best team at the moment
France coach Marc Lievremont, mirroring the selection policy of predecessor Bernard Laporte in 2007, named an unchanged team for the semi despite concerns over player fatigue.

“It’s tough to change a winning team,” said Szarzewski. “Compared to 2007, after the match against the All Blacks, we felt much more done in. Personally, I feel much less exhausted than in 2007.”

The hooker, currently plying second fiddle to Toulouse stalwart William Servat, warned the danger now would be to underestimate Wales.

“We’ve won against them over the last three years but it’s not the same team,” he said.

“They’ve had a remarkable run in this World Cup. I’ve got the impression that it’s the best team of the moment.”

Bonnaire added: “We know we haven’t got there yet. Our goal wasn’t a quarterfinal, our goal is to be world champions.” — AFP

View our Rugby World Cup special report for the latest news, features, match reports and multimedia here.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Luke Phillips
Luke Phillips works from Beckenham, Kent, UK. Writer, wordsmith and blogger interested in the natural and not so natural worlds around us. My first novel 'Shadow Beast' out now! Luke Phillips has over 566 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Covid-19 vaccines offer hope as world leaders plan for future

Hopes over Covid-19 vaccines have given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe, but the disease remains rampant and world leaders are urging people to be patient

Busy Bee continues to sting despite challenges

Cape Town’s oldest Black rugby club personifies the problems Black rugby faces, including attempts to have its history erased, being affected by apartheid and struggling financially for good resources

$500m for Covid test, treat, vaccine

France, Spain, the European Commission and Britain as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged money for equity in the treatment of Covid-19

Tax the super rich and raise inflation to cut state debt, inequality and poverty

The richest 10% of South Africans own over 85% of all private wealth and a once-off 25% tax would reduce government debt by more than half. Imagine what a five-year wealth tax could do

The European companies that armed the Ivorian civil war

AN OCCRP investigation reveals that Gunvor and Semlex brokered weapons-for-oil deals in early 2011 when Côte d’Ivoire was in crisis, despite a UN arms embargo

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza: Liberating Africa from land of liberté

The cultural and political activist is on a quest to bring looted treasures back home

Subscribers only

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

More top stories

Eusebius McKaiser: Mpofu, Gordhan caught in the crosshairs

The lawyer failed to make his Indian racist argument and the politician refused to admit he had no direct evidence

Corruption forces health shake-up in Gauteng

Dr Thembi Mokgethi appointed as new health MEC as premier seeks to stop Covid-19 malfeasance

Public-private partnerships are key for Africa’s cocoa farmers

Value chain efficiency and partnerships can sustain the livelihoods of farmers of this historically underpriced crop

Battery acid, cassava sticks and clothes hangers: We must end...

COMMENT: The US’s global gag rule blocks funding to any foreign NGOS that perform abortions, except in very limited cases. The Biden-Harris administration must rescind it

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…