France have 'healthy' unit for the World Cup says coach

Mark Lievremont's remark, however, contrasts his blunt assessment in March when he said his boys 'lacked courage'.
Marc Lievremont and his team left for New Zealand feeling confident that their lengthy and intense preparations have boosted their chances of winning the Rugby World Cup. Lionel Bonaventure / AFP
Marc Lievremont and his team left for New Zealand feeling confident that their lengthy and intense preparations have boosted their chances of winning the Rugby World Cup. Lionel Bonaventure / AFP

Which France team turns up for the Rugby World Cup is as difficult to predict as where the ball will be thrown next during one of their exhilarating and downright brilliant charges forward.

Unfortunately for French fans, those sparks of irrepressible flair have been seen all too rarely on the biggest stage with a World Cup title still missing from Les Bleus' trophy cabinet.

The 2007 tournament, which they hosted, was a microcosm of their remarkable inconsistency.

They were beaten 17-12 by Argentina in their Stade de France opener only to defeat the mighty New Zealand 20-18 in a memorable quarter-final, and then lose their way again against a modest England side in the last four.

This time Marc Lievremont, their coach, is feeling confident.

"The group is healthy. They are in a very good state of mind. It's clear.

"They are happy and feel good," he told reporters.

In fact, a few players have injuries but all are expected to be fit for the September 9 to October 23 tournament in New Zealand, with the influential centre Aurelien Rougerie coming back from a fractured ankle.

Winger Yoann Huget was forced to withdraw from the squad for breaching anti-doping whereabouts rules.

Lievremont's upbeat mood contrasts markedly with comments he made after their shock loss to Italy in March's Six Nations.

"The players lack courage. There is a certain cowardice. When I talk to them nothing happens. Some players maybe wore the French jersey for the last time," he said at the time before apologising for being too blunt.

Most of the players from that defeat are still in the squad although Sebastien Chabal, the No 8, has been dropped entirely along with the experienced centre Yannick Jauzion. France open their Pool A campaign against Japan in Auckland on September 10 before facing Canada in Napier eight days later.

New Zealand loom in Auckland on September 24 with a final pool match against Tonga scheduled for Wellington on October 1.

Published: August 31, 2011 04:00 AM

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