Philippe Saint-Andre (Gallo)
Newport - France captain Thierry Dusautoir tackled the rumor head-on Friday, quashing talk of a player revolt against coach Philippe Saint-Andre on the eve of the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against New Zealand.
Dusautoir dismissed a French newspaper report that the team has lost faith in Saint-Andre, in what appeared to be an echo of the 2011 World Cup mutiny when key players fell out with Marc Lievremont — yet still reached the final.
"I don't know where this article is coming from. This isn't really our kind of thing," Dusautoir said.
"I don't really understand what everyone's talking about here. It's not really my problem and I only want to focus on tomorrow."
Pressed further as to whether the players still support Saint-Andre's judgement, the 33-year-old flanker said: "Yeah, totally."
"We started as a team and want to continue as a team," he added, "we're still together until the end of the competition, players, coaches, medical staff."
Dusautoir will again be one of France's key players against the All Blacks, just as he has been in the past two World Cups.
Eight years ago, he made 38 tackles - a record for a World Cup match - as France staged a second-half rally to beat the All Blacks 20-18 in the quarterfinals. That match was held at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, where the teams meet again Saturday night.
"Cardiff was special because we won against the All Blacks - I think the French team likes moments like this," the 79-test veteran said, smiling. "But I want to think about our future. That was eight years ago, I want to think about tomorrow."
Dusautoir also led the French comeback charge four years ago, scoring a second-half try as France rallied from 8-0 down to lose a nail-biting final 8-7.
"It's always something special to play New Zealand," Dusautoir said. "The French and the ABs have a special history together."
That history also includes France's 43-31 comeback semifinal win over New Zealand in 1999 - a match in which France trailed 24-10 - but Dusautoir concluded the retrospective talk by saying "I hope we write a new chapter tomorrow."
The quarterfinal match pits two inspirational captains and flankers against each other: Dusautoir, the 2011 world player of the year, and New Zealand's Richie McCaw, who led New Zealand to victory that year.
"Richie is a great player, everybody knows it. The best player of his generation, what he did for the All Blacks is incredible," Dusautoir said. "It's always a privilege to play against him. It's my last chance to play against a master like him."
To get the better of New Zealand, France has to improve from last Sunday's 24-9 loss to Ireland.
Dusautoir was asked if France needs to show more of its traditional flair to beat the All Blacks, and his response was indicative of how much this team has changed.
"Can you explain to me what French flair is?" he said. "What interests me is to get through. If we win it with this French flair, great."
Still, in a bid to unsettle the All Blacks, Saint-Andre made three changes.
South-African born Bernard Le Roux returns at openside flanker, Morgan Parra replaces Sebastien Tillous-Borde at scrumhalf and Alexandre Dumoulin was preferred to Mathieu Bastareaud in midfield.
"We are confident in (Le Roux's) ability to fight a lot and run against New Zealand, because we were under pressure against Ireland at the breakdown," France forwards coach Yannick Bru said. "We were not satisfied with the performance of Mathieu, I think we can put more speed into our game."