June International Tours

French concerned about Pacific Islands threat



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France showed how they could win ugly in beating bogey team Argentina last weekend but if French fans are looking for more expansive rugby against the Pacific Islanders this weekend then they may be sorely disappointed.

While France head coach Marc Lievremont assured them that France could play prettier rugby – something that nobody needed really reassuring about – and score tries against a more attacking minded side like the Pacific Islands, their backs coach Emile Ntamack struck a note of caution as they approach their first ever meeting with their opponents.

“This team are known for taking plenty of risks without thinking about the consequences,” said the former Toulouse and France star.

“That leads to some quite extraordinary things – counter-attacks that can be suicidal but at times can also be very efficient.

“Their players have tremendous individual abilities, and are capable of beating any opponent one on one.

“We will have to be very watchful on defence and play very collectively.”

Certainly the French will be no strangers to the Pacific Islanders star Fijian wing duo of Vilimoni Delasau and Napoleoni Nalaga, who have terrorised French championship defences in the past, both when they were together at Clermont and principally Delasau this season at Montauban where he has already touched down nine times.

For Clermont vice-president Jean-Marc Lhermet it is no surprise that Fiji (with a population of 900,000) churns out top class wings.

“The Fijians are a little like the Brazilians in football,” said Lhermet.

“They learn to play on the beach and their training is spent a lot on the sevens discipline, which places a lot of emphasis on speed and ballhandling.”

However, it is asking a lot of a team that has failed to win in its seven tests since it was formed in 2004 to beat the French, even though the latter are still reforming after last year’s World Cup and Lievremont is still in the process of defining his best 22.

Certainly France scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde is under no illusions that the French will have an easier task on their hands than against the Argentinians.

“One mustn’t fall into the trap of saying this is a different type of team to Argentina, that they are just going to pass the ball, that we are going to play more open rugby,” said Elissalde.

“I believe that they are going to pose us a lot of problems in winning this match.

“That is what we have said this week. Unfortunately for those who will be watching us, if it is tactically wiser to kick the ball the first 10 times we have it because we can’t play the ball, then we will do it.”

While France have made minimal changes to the team that beat Argentina, the Pacific Islands have rung the changes to the one that lost 39-13 to England last Saturday with no less than 10 personnel changes.

“It is important to rest the players from week to week,” explained their Tongan coach Quddus Fielea.

He will be hoping that his starting XV give the French no rest whatosever on Saturday and record an historic victory.

Teams (15-1)


France :Maxime Medard; Julien Malzieu, Yannick Jauzion, Benoit Baby, Cedric Heymans; David Skrela, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde; Imanol Harinordoquy, Fulgence Ouedrago, Thierry Dusautoir; Lionel Nallet, Romain Millo-Chluski; Nicolas Mas, Dimitri Szarzewski, Lionel Faure

Replacements: Benjamin Kayser, Benoit Lecouls, Sebastien Chabal, Louis Picamoles, Sebastien Tillous-Bordes, Damien Traille, Alexis Palisson

Pacific Islanders: Gavin Williams (SAM); Napoleoni Nalaga (FIJ), Seru Rabeni (FIJ), Epeli Taione (TGA), Vilimoni Delasau (FIJ); Seremaia Bai (FIJ), Mosese Rauluni (FIJ, capt); Sisa Koyamaibole (FIJ), Nili Latu (TGA), Hale T-Pole (TGA); Kele Leawere (FIJ), Paino Hehea (TGA); Kisi P

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