France restore pride in defeat

2011-10-24 07:53

Auckland - France will head home after a troubled Rugby World Cup campaign knowing they stunned their many critics to push champions New Zealand to the limit in an 8-7 final defeat at Eden Park here on Sunday.

The French got through to the showpiece match despite twice being beaten in pool play, by New Zealand and Tonga and only qualified for the knockout phase courtesy of a losing bonus point in the latter match.

Sketchy form on the field was matched by vociferous criticism of the players by outspoken France coach Marc Lievremont, as rumours of a rift between the squad and management quickly spread.

France then toppled a woeful England team 19-12 in the last eight before scraping 9-8 past a Wales team reduced to 14 men for an hour of the semi-final.

Lievremont rounded on his squad again after the Wales match, unhappy some players had gone out partying after he'd instructed them to have a quiet night in.

There will be a new regime for France, still to win the World Cup after losing what was their third final, when they arrive home, however.

In an unfathomable move guaranteed to erode Lievremont's already precarious authority, his former France team-mate Philippe Saint-Andre was named as his successor in August, just as the squad assembled to travel to New Zealand.

An emotional Lievremont could only utter one word when asked what he would say to his team after their nail-biting defeat in the final: "Thanks."

Flanker Julien Bonnaire said the France team had been brought closer together because of their well-publicised in-fighting and at times questionable performances on the pitch, notably the shock 19-14 pool loss to Tonga.

"A lot of good things happened, and some bad ones. That's what strengthened the group," Bonnaire said.

"The final was really close. We can hold our heads high at the end of this World Cup. We gave it our all, just as we said we would. Unfortunately, something was missing. It's a pity.

"It's been quite a roller-coaster but, as people say, it's in difficult times that great teams are born, and tonight we stuck together.

"We came closer to each other during the tournament and somehow we are happy to leave the competition this way."

Scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili added: "We are very disappointed. We thought before the game that we should give everything so that we would not have any regrets.

"It was close. We stuck together. We are disappointed we did not make it, but we are proud of ourselves."

France centre Maxime Mermoz said the team had taken encouragement from what was written about them.

"Everything that was said about us, it was a source of motivation in the end," Mermoz said. "We really wanted to show our better side. I think we did it and we can take some positive things away with us."

Fellow midfielder Aurelien Rougerie, whose blunt replies to a journalist in a midweek press conference saw several members of the French press pack leave the room in disgust, added: "We can say that we came out of this competition with our heads up.

"There's no regret. The last four months have some real ups and downs. We were ashamed to lose against Tonga, but I think we have finished on a high note."


  • Alan - 2011-10-24 08:17

    Well I take my hat off to the French team - I expected them to get a thumping of note, yet on the day, I think they were by far the better team. The French certainly exposed some weaknesses in the AB team (that other teams the AB's have played in the WC have not exposed). The AB's though showed superb discipline, and that got them home. Co congrats to the AB's and France. I thought it was a great final, and was gripping because it was such a close contest.

  • Theprodigy - 2011-10-24 08:55

    the Brats looked very rattled in the 2nd half, Graham Henry almost shat himself & had it not been for biased IRB officiation the Brats would have lost & NZ would have lived up to their choking tag. The truth is not always pretty, is it.

      sam.kaitawa - 2011-10-24 10:10

      Did you poo your pants thepooey when the Box became the laughing joke? All is not lost bro, at least you guys have a clown to lighten the MOMENT

  • Arno - 2011-10-24 09:14

    Yes I thought Graig Joubert was woefull! Many of them but the one that sticks out to he shouted "Roll away black" two times on the All blacks 22m, 5 min from play, TOO AFRAID to make a decision to give a scrum to the AB..It was a kickable penalty and that would have shatter the All black dreams yet again. In my mind the All black yet again choked since 1987! I am glad they boooed him when he collected his medal!!Our very own Bryce Lawrence!

  • Werner - 2011-10-24 09:56

    As much as I dislike the French, I have to say they were the better team in the second half. They never really looked like scoring any tries to be honest, but they were applying constant pressure. I was rooting for the All Blacks but they were very...flat. I don't really believe in the 'choker' tag but perhaps the pressure got to them a bit. Still deserved winners in my mind.

  • Barry - 2011-10-24 19:01

    Go France my next favorite team after the Bokke. They came to the final with a game. New Zealand came to the final with "Choke" half "Choke" a game " Choke Choke" Congrats to NZ anyway.

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