Pape savours underdog status
October 20, 2011
Israel Dagg scored two tries in New Zealand's win over France in the pool stages © Getty Images
Pascal Pape accepts France could be excused for feeling like World Cup outcasts as they prepare to tackle New Zealand in Sunday's final.
Not only are Les Bleus rank outsiders, but their semi-final performance against Wales - when they were outplayed by 14-man opponents before scraping a 9-8 win - has received widespread criticism. A written-off French team, though, is perhaps when they are at their most dangerous.
"It motivates us even more," said France lock Pape. "It is like we are alone in this world, but it is not a problem. It gives us another push. We have reached the final. We have not had a great competition, but we are in the final. When you play sport, the focus is the championship.
"I don't think there are many French supporters left (in New Zealand). They never thought we would make it to the final. There are lots of All Blacks supporters, and that will bring us together even more.
"This is the World Cup final, and if there is any fear we might as well not bother turning up for. The motivation is extreme - we cannot fear this match."
Pape and his second-row partner Lionel Nallet face a key role in subduing New Zealand's impressive lineout, having already seen the All Blacks claim a commanding pool stage win against France last month.
"Their lineout is something they are good at," Pape added. "The difficulty for us is getting our hand back on the ball. This is something we need to work on, and it will be an important element.
"The bar is very high and it is up to us to do a lot better. We have to play better than the rugby we played against them in the pool stage."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson