Thursday, 22 September 2011
Allez Les Noir!
I do not like the short-term memory or lack of appreciation of French rugby in our media. I think because I lived in London for a few years and saw Six Nations and Heineken Cups every year that I ‘get’ the French a little better than a lot of people here.
Most Kiwis seem to think they the French plod around for most of the year in the Top 14, made up of teams of ex-All Blacks and Polynesian imports. Then every four years they fly somewhere and sporadically play good rugby, then producing 30-35 minutes of glorious rugby to knock the All Blacks out of a World Cup. This is bollocks; its a convenient fantasy that ignores the skill, experience and depth of this French squad.
Forget 1999. Forget 2007. You only have to go back to June 2009 when they beat us 27-22 in Dunedin with a not too dissimilar squad to that which they have here at RWC. And the following week, though NZ won 14-10 in Wellington, I remember that match for the scintillating try that Cedric Heymans scored, running about 40 metres and weaving around 3 All Black defenders easily to score a fantastic try.
The forwards are tough and mobile, can scrum all day, and we learnt the hard way what their loosies can do in Cardiff - that day Thierry Dusautoir made more tackles himself than the whole All Black team. Nallet, Bonnaire, Pape, Picamoles are all extroardinary players ... and Harinordoquy is to come on from the bench at some stage.
The French backs? Well, just look at the names: Médard, Mermoz, Rougerie, Clerc, and Traille. Trinh-Duc and Heymans on as subs. Eeesh.
The one thing that stops this team blitzing everyone, consistently, is not some Gallic erraticness, or inconsistency of focus, or a lack of skills ... its their coach, Marc Leivremont. How many different line-ups do you think he has fielded in his four years as coach? The 'you don’t know what team is going to turn up on the day’ is a literal statement because no one can guess what bloody XV he will name. Case in point, tomorrow night, for which he has named Dimitri Yachvili and Morgan Parra as his halfback combo ... Parra will make his first start at 10 in a Test, at the World Cup, against the All Blacks!
The players they have are incredible, but the constant tinkering in XVs has never allowed them to gel and really deliver. Any idea that the French are trying to throw this match and travel down the (perceived as easier) Northern Hemisphere side of the draw is rubbish. Leivremont has just done it to them again, so whether these fifteen players step up and put on a winning display is up to them.
They have to demonstrate they can be a ‘team’ in big games, and I think this is Australia’s problem as well. New Zealand and South Africa are teams, benches included; France and Australia are star-studded, but that shows in their play.
This nonsense of Les Bleus wanting to lose is just pathetic media bollocks. Its embarrassing. I want the All Blacks to absolutely smash France tomorrow while wearing black, to really put that Top XV performance in and send a message to South Africa and N-Sync, I mean Australia ... but, we really do write the French off at our peril.
Allez les Noirs!!!!