France book place in final four
November 9, 2003
Christophe Dominici slides in to score for an impressive France
© Getty Images
France sounded an impressive warning to all their rivals for the World Cup crown with a comprehensive 43-21 triumph over Ireland at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne.
Bernard Laporte's side dominated from the off and looked determined to put down an impressive marker for any other side hoping to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup to take note off.
The display of power and control made the Irish effort look ordinary in the opening period and calls into question the form of the Wallabies who only edged out Ireland last weekend.
To be fair to Australia this Irish side looked tired compared to the one that almost upset the hosts but then that would be detracting from a formidable showing from les bleus. Defensive coach Dave Ellis will be extremely happy as try as they did Ireland got no change out of a brick wall French line, but scrum half Fabien Galthie and fly half Frederic Michalak, who slotted 20 points, also deserve high praise.
France flew out of the starting blocks and it was not long befoe they were troubling the scorers. The French pack owned the field throughout and stretched the Irish defence leaving a gaping hole for the impressive Frederic Michalak to launch a cross kick.
Imanol Harinordoquy beat fullback Girvan Dempsey to the ball and fed Tony Marsh who in turn put Magne in for the easy score. Michalak, who didn't miss a kick in the first half added the extras to take his World Cup tally to 80.
They were denied a second try by the width of a shoelace shortly after when Aurelian Rougerie just stepped into touch before he dotted down in the corner, but that let off failed to inspire the Irish.
A soft penalty conceded by Victor Costello enabled Michalak to extend the lead but France, led by their inspirational skipper Fabien Galthie, were hungry for more.
Ireland attempted to drag themselves back into the game but coughed up the ball on the French 22. At their counter attacking best, Magne, hooker Raphael Ibanez and flanker Serge Betsen led the charge upfield before Christophe Dominici injected the pace to seal the score.
The French weren't finished for the half yet. Another turnover saw Crenca barge into the Irish 22, and he off loaded to Harinodoquy who grabbed the third try of the night. And there was still time for Michalak to add to Ireland's woes with another penalty.
There was no let up for Ireland after the break but they had their own errors to blame for giving Michalak another easy three moments after the re-start.
And it got worse for Eddie O'Sullivan's side as another sweeping move, involving a smart flick pass from Magne, saw Jean Jacques Crenca cross and you would have thought that by his nonchalant celebration he scored Test tries every week.
The conversion from Michalak made it 37-0 and we'd barely begun the second half but Ireland refused to roll over and let the French rack up a cricket score.
Kevin Maggs finally got his team on the board with a try shortly after and that along with the conversion from replacement flyhalf David Humphreys looked to put new fire in the belly of the Irish.
Ireland, raised their game again and began to frustrate the boys in blue but further indescretions saw Michalak slot another three. But Ireland pressed again and Ibanez was rightly sent to the bin just after the hour for a blatant and illegal attempt to disrupt Ireland flow in the 22.
The pressure finally brought reward for the Irish, with Peter Stringer feeding Humphreys who pushed a grubber through the French line that Brian O'Driscoll raced on to and touched down with one hand. Humphreys' conversion gave he large Irish following slim hopes of a revival but time was not on their side.
France re-grouped to shut up shop and a final penalty snuffed out any hope of a late revival. However, Ireland refused to give up and their never say die attitude saw O'Driscoll burrow over in the final seconds, but Humphreys' successful conversion was their last contribution to RWC'03.
France, who take their place in their third successive World Cup semi-final, will have worried both England and Wales who face the prospect of taking them on in Sydney next weekend.
France: Brusque, Rougerie, Marsh, Jauzion, Dominici, Michalak, Galthie, Crenca, Ibanez, Marconnet, Pelous, Thion, Betsen, Magne, Harinordoqui, Brouzet.
Replacements: Liebenberg for Jauzion (52), Milloud for Crenca (73), Bru for Thion (65), Brouzet for Magne (65), Tabacco for Harinordoqui (75), Elhorga for Brouzet (78).
Not Used: Merceron.
Ireland: Dempsey, S. Horgan, O'Driscoll, Maggs, Kelly, O'Gara, Stringer, Corrigan, Wood, Hayes, O'Kelly, O'Connell, S. Easterby, Gleeson, Costello.
Replacements: Humphreys for O'Gara (49), G. Easterby for Stringer (73), Horan for Corrigan (52), Miller for Costello (66).
Not Used: Byrne, O'Callaghan, A. Horgan.
Referee: J. Kaplan (SA)
Scorers: France: 43 Tries: Magne, Dominci, Harinordoquy, Crenca Con: Michalak (4) Pen: Michalak (5)
Ireland: 21 Try: Maggs, O'Driscoll (2) Con: Humphreys (3)
Yellow Card: R. Ibanez (Fra) 64 min
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games