Underdogs France are confident they will pose New Zealand problems in Sunday’s World Cup final and have dismissed suggestions they’ll resort to dirty tactics in a bid for an unlikely triumph.
The French have stuttered into the final after suffering two defeats in the pool stage by the All Blacks and Tonga, before overcoming a woeful England team in the quarterfinals and edging 14-man Wales in a last-four clash.
But Les Bleus are capable of springing surprises, as seen when they eliminated the then-favourite All Blacks from the 1999 and 2007 World Cups.
“I have always maintained that France could make the World Cup final. We didn’t choose the easiest path but we’re here now and have to make the most of it,” France captain Thierry Dusautoir said on Saturday.
“No matter whatever the sport, all kids dream of being world champions. It can’t get better than being the world champions and to achieve those dreams.
“I’m proud of the team and the path we followed, even after the Tonga game, when the pressure was a bit different. But we qualified and we showed great strength to get here. There’s one match left and we need to prove ourselves.”
Dusautoir, whose duel at the breakdown with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will be one of the key battles, said tension was rising within the French camp.
“Of course we’re a bit nervous, it’s the World Cup final and it’ll be a great experience for all the players,” the 29-year-old Toulouse flanker said.
“We’re very happy to be there. The pressure has been building up in the lead-up to the game, but we’ve also been making the most of the week in a bid to take away some good memories.
“We’ll have a lot of work to do, there’ll be 15 problems on the pitch. We know Richie is vital to the team, but it’s just not about him.”
Marc Lievremont, in his last game as France coach before he is replaced by former team-mate Philippe Saint-Andre, admitted he had been soaking up his final moments in charge during what has been, at times, a difficult World Cup campaign.
The former France flanker never sought an easy refuge in his dealing with the players, offering public criticism of them for their on-field failings and was equally outspoken in his condemnation of certain squad members for their off-field partying after a nailbiting 9-8 victory over Wales in the semifinal.
“There’ve been worse things. I’m just trying to appreciate these moments,” Lievremont said.
“I’m aware, as the team are, of the exceptional opportunity we have. I’d like it to end as well as possible.”
Lievremont also played down the impact of Friday’s edition of the New Zealand Herald, which highlighted several examples of French foul play dating back to the 1960s and the likelihood of it rearing its ugly head at Eden Park on Sunday.
“That’s something I forgot to mention to my own players. Thanks,” the coach said.
“More seriously, France are one of the most disciplined teams in this competition and on Sunday it’s imperative we keep that discipline.
“On and off the pitch, the players are not guilty of anything of that nature, they can only be respected.” — AFP
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