Stuttering France target Canucks
September 15, 2011
Lievremont has been at odds with some of his players in the early stages of the World Cup © Getty Images
After just one match at the Rugby World Cup, the pressure is already mounting on France who face Canada in Napier on Sunday.
Les Blues were given a scare against Japan in their opening Pool A clash before eventually running out 47-21 winners. Coach Marc Lievremont was furious with the display and publicly criticised a number of senior players for their sloppy approach - an outburst that incensed scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili. While the in-fighting seems to have subsided ahead of the clash with the Canucks, there remains a suspicion that a lack of unity could yet undermine their World Cup campaign.
With the pivotal Pool A match against the All Blacks following the Canada game, France will be desperate to find some form and bed down their selection against the Canucks.
Canada opened their campaign with an impressive 25-20 victory over Tonga in Whangarei on Wednesday and will go into the match with confidence. Despite the short turnaround, Canucks coach Kieran Crowley has named the same 22 for the clash in Napier.
Canada - Player to Watch: Glasgow's DTH van der Merwe gained a highly creditable 74 metres against Tonga and Canada will again be looking to the centre make inroads into a French midfield that is short on match fitness.
Canada - Team News: Crowley has named the same squad that defeated Tonga in their opening match of the tournament, despite the quick turnaround.
France - Player to Watch: Lievremont criticised Yachvili for his labouring display against Japan and Morgan Parra has been given the scrum-half shirt with the objective of injecting a greater tempo to France's performance.
France - Team News: Lievremont has rung the changes for the side that overcame Japan with hooker William Servat the sole survivor in the French pack. He is joined by Jean-Baptiste Poux and Luc Ducalcon in the front row while Pascal Pape and Romain Millo-Chluski form the second-row partnership and Fulgence Ouedraogo, Julien Bonnaire and Louis Picamoles all come into the back-row. Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Ruougerie and Francois Trinh-Duc are retained in the backs, though Rougerie moves from centre to wing in place of Maxime Medard. David Marty and his fit-again Perpignan team-mate Maxime Mermoz have been paired together in midfield, while Damien Traille will line up at fullback.
Key Battle: Clermont Auvergne lock Jamie Cudmore and Jebb Sinclair, soon to be of London Irish, will again form an aggressive and abrasive second-row combination, which will go up against the French pair of Pascal Pape and Romain Millo-Chluski who start their first games of the tournament. The Canuck will be relying on their second-rows to supply a steady line of possession as well as making their presence felt in the tight.
Trivia: Vincent Clerc (6) needs two more tries to join Christophe Dominici (8) as France's top try scorer in World Cup history.
Stats: France conceded 16 turnovers in their opening match against Japan
"We really have to do it on Sunday for people to take us seriously. And what better way to do that than against the French. This is big, we've drawn a line in the sand (against Tonga) and we can't go back from that performance." - Fullback James Pritchard is optimistic of an upset
"I wasn't happy at the beginning of the game, we weren't ambitious enough. We didn't seem to be playing with a strong ambition. We had strong scrums ... but we weren't playing together" - Lievremont gives an honest appraisal of France's opening effort
Prediction: Following a stuttering start, not least due to the number of changes, France will find their feet and their attacking quality out wide will ensure a comfortable win.
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