Rugby World Cup 2011

French pride sinks England

2011-10-08 11:22
Imanol Harinordoquy (File)

Auckland - France roared back from humiliation to triumph to as they downed tournament nemesis England 19-12 at Eden Park on Saturday to book a place in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

The unpredictable French produced one of their greatest recoveries to knock the 2003 champions out of the tournament just a week after their abject loss to Tonga saw them limp into the quarter-finals.

But it was a resurgent France who played with pride and resolve in a commanding first half performance that left them 16-0 in front at the break against England , who had not lost to Les Bleus in three knockout World Cup games.

Two-time finalists France will now face off with Wales next Saturday for a place in the October 23 final.

It was England's earliest exit from the World Cup since their 44-21 loss to South Africa in the 1999 quarter-finals.

"We seem to have done it all the way through and you can't give a good team like France 16 points," said England manager Martin Johnson.

"We had two defensive lapses on the edge and they scored tries and suddenly we were way behind," added England's 2003 World Cup-winning captain.

"I'm proud of the guys for the way they came back. It's so disappointing because games like this are winnable but not when you are 16-0 down.

"It's a brutal way to end it but that's the way it ends for everyone except the winners. They (France) deserved to win."

England's Jonny Wilkinson had only one kick at goal before he was replaced, leaving him three points shy of New Zealander Dan Carter's Test scoring record of 1,250 points.

Les Bleus struck rock bottom with their abject 19-14 loss to the Tongans in one of the World Cup's greatest upsets in Wellington last Saturday.

But from the kickoff it was a vastly different France from the previous week's shambles as they seized ascendancy from a hesitant England.

Scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili was the architect of Les Bleus' attacks with his high kicks and smooth organisation alongside fly-half Morgan Parra, while Imanol Harinordoquy and Julien Bonnaire led an outstanding French pack.

"All the week we talked about our team spirit," said Yachvili. "It was not possible to play like we played last week against Tonga. I think we were scared.

"This was for the jersey, for our family, our friends and our supporters here in New Zealand because they were very sad last week."

Yachvili kicked two penalties to put the French 6-0 ahead after 16 minutes before their decisive first try rocked England six minutes later.

Wing Vincent Clerc sliced through the tackles of Wilkinson, Tom Croft and a weak effort from full-back Ben Foden to score as England's defence opened up.

Handling errors continued to haunt England as scrum-half Ben Youngs and fly-half Wilkinson, paired alongside back-up 10 Toby Flood at inside centre, struggled for rhythm.

Only powerful Samoan-born outside centre Manu Tuilagi looked any attacking threat with one particular bumping midfield run.

But France again carved up England with their second try in the 31st minute.

Parra sparked the attack before winger Alexis Palisson's pass infield found unmarked full-back Maxime Medard, who scored the easiest of tries to put a rampant France 16-0 up against the shellshocked English.

England had two tryscoring chances in the final minutes of the half but botched both with Youngs's pass hitting a retreating Mark Cueto and Wilkinson's high pass dropped by wing Chris Ashton.

Yachvili came off after 54 minutes for Francois Trinh-Duc and England scored their first points a minute later when Foden crossed for a try off a Flood pass before Wilkinson landed his only shot at goal.

Trinh-Duc, however, settled it with a drop goal seven minutes from the end for France's only score of the second half.

Cueto was awarded a try by the video referee to put England within seven points with three minutes left but France comfortably wound down the clock.



15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Lewis Moody (captain), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Matt Stevens

Substitutes: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Courtney Lawes, 19 Simon Shaw, 20 James Haskell, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Matt Banahan


15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Morgan Parra, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7  Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux

Substitutes: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Louis Picamoles, 20 Francois Trinh-Duc, 21 David Marty, 22 Cedric Heymans


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