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France blow hot and cold

2015-10-14 08:16
Philippe Saint-Andre (Gallo)

Cardiff - French players are being put through cryotherapy sessions to soothe their aches and pains while building themselves into a "rage" to convince themselves they can beat the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Drained by their defeat by Ireland, Les Bleus led by veteran captain  now find themselves overwhelming favourites to be beaten by New Zealand at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday. They are not happy.

The team cryotherapy truck, especially brought over from France, is parked outside the upmarket Celtic Manor resort where they are staying. The truck offers evidence of their suffering in the 24-9 defeat by Ireland in their final Pool D match.

The whole-body ice bath carried out inside helps speed the body's recovery. And the French have only six days from the Ireland game to be ready for their next battle in Cardiff.

France have had the All Blacks odds against them before and pulled off stunning victories at the 1999 and 2007 World Cups. But this time they are hurting inside as well and want the defending champions to suffer the backlash.

During a break from rugby training on Tuesday, some players tried to relax playing football with a tennis ball. Others pushed weights.

Dusautoir will have the main unifying task in the team. French coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who leaves after the World Cup, and his staff are drawing up the match strategy.

"Quite honestly, this will be a game that will stay engraved in our memories for a long time," said hooker Benjamin Kayser.

"The plan is that we must have absolutely no regrets and prepare for a revolt, create a huge rage so that we can fully express our potential."

Fullback Brice Dulin also spoke with unashamed emotion.

"I do not want to stop here. I really don't," he said.

"I am here to give everything, the 23 on that match sheet as well. If we have got this far, after all this effort, the years spent in difficulty, it cannot be for nothing.

"Sometimes I think people think we get a pleasure out of being average. That is not the case, I assure you."

Despite their famous wins in 1999 and 2007, when New Zealand lost in the quarter-final, their earliest exit ever, France have not had a good run against the All Blacks.

France won the next game in New Zealand two years later, but have lost all eight Tests played since.

The French suffered heartbreak when they were beaten 8-7 in the final four years ago at the All Blacks fortress of Eden Park in Auckland.

But veteran prop Nicolas Mas said France had at least showed the All Blacks can be rattled.

"If we can make them have doubts we can do something," he said.

"We must not lose confidence because the next game will be even more important. There can be no distractions.

"We must be united. It's a week where we say that this may be the last. It's special. If we lose, it is over."

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