Rugby World Cup 2011

Palmer warns of wounded French

2011-10-04 14:10
Tom Palmer (File)

Auckland - England forward Tom Palmer has warned a France team seemingly riven by talk of internal splits, could yet be at their most dangerous for this weekend's Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

French rugby is notorious for its peaks and troughs and Les Bleus hit rock bottom when they were humiliated by Tonga 19-14 in one of the Rugby World Cup's greatest upsets in Wellington last Saturday.

France coach Marc Lievremont said the team's demoralising loss to Tonga had left him with a sense of "deep personal failure" after their second loss as runners-up in Pool A behind New Zealand.

While France appear to be in disarray from the outside, Palmer, who plays his club rugby with Stade Francais in Paris, cautioned against expecting an England win on Saturday.

"These things happen with the French. Look at their football team at the World Cup," Palmer told reporters here on Tuesday, referring to France's calamitous campaign in South Africa last year under coach Raymond Domenech that brought French football to its knees.

"In my knowledge of the French guys and their psyche, if things are not going their way or if things are not going well, they make quite a lot out of it.

"But saying that, we can't read too much into it when we come up against them. I think they will raise their game against us and every time they play us it tends to be a top match.

"It is always a difficult game and it is always a difficult contest up front in the forwards, in the mauls and in the rucks. I expect a huge game."

England beat defending champions France 17-9 in this year's Six Nations at Twickenham but Palmer said he took no encouragement from the reports of dissent within the French camp.

"I think we can't. You can't go into a World Cup quarter-final being complacent. It would be one of the worst things to do and you have to go in expecting a battle," he said.

Palmer said from his experience French players can fold under adversity in club situations, but not with the national team.

"You can have those cliches about wounded animals and we'll have to wait to see exactly what French team shows up," he added.

"From my experience, from my first few years in France (with club team Stade Francais), we started mentally strong as a group but when things started to go wrong, then we folded fairly easily.

"But that is not an opinion of what is happening with the French national team.

"You are surprised when their guys are not giving their all."

Palmer, who plays with French World Cup squad members, Dimitri Szarzewski and Pascal Pape at Stade Francais, said he could sense when his team-mates were mentally switched on.

"You can sort of feel it. People are talking or they are not talking," he said.

"I suspect they (France) will be really committed to playing. They will see this as being given another chance and what has happened before is irrelevant because it is a one-off knockout match.

"I imagine they realise it. They can say 'screw everything' behind them and 'we can go out and win and go to the semi-finals of the World Cup'. That will be motivation for them."

Palmer said it was important for England, who've beaten France in the last two semi-finals of the World Cup, to seize the initiative from the kick-off.

"You want to score points and get the scoreboard moving and have the other team chase it," he said.


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