Underperforming Tricolores know national prestige is on the line

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2005, 12:00am

France are playing for more than just World Cup glory, they are also trying to sell the game of sevens to a sceptical public.

Coach Thierry Janeczek said French rugby authorities were hoping to place more emphasis on sevens rugby, especially if the sport was accepted into the Olympic fold for the 2012 games.

'This tournament is very important for the development of sevens rugby in France,' said Janeczek. 'For the first time in a very long while, the tournament will be shown on television in France, so we want to put on a good show.

'Now, with the IRB series, there is more competitive sevens and if rugby is confirmed as an Olympic sport all the countries will have to put more emphasis on sevens.

'We want to do well in this tournament to show the people in France that we can play sevens rugby as well.'

France have collected four points from the four IRB series tournaments this season.

Their best performance was in the previous tournament in Los Angeles, where they reached the quarter-finals. Before that, the French were scrapping around in the lesser events such as the bowl and shield and losing to the likes of Kenya and Portugal.

'These days, you get many strong teams in sevens rugby,' said Janeczek. 'Before, you would get easy games but not any more. Many of the African teams are improving and everywhere teams are getting stronger.'

He said the fans could expect typical French rugby played with flair and zest but whether it was enough to challenge their main rivals in pool B, England and Samoa, remained to be seen.

'We definitely think we can surprise a few teams,' said Janeczek. 'We will play with the usual French improvisation and flair.

'England and Samoa are certainly strong teams and will be tough to beat. At the moment, we are only mid-table in the rankings [equal 10th with Tunisia] and we are outsiders in the group.'

Janeczek had hoped France would release some of their big-name players for the World Cup but Six Nations commitments meant he had to stick with the players who turned out during the IRB series.

Still, he has confidence in his side.

'It will be difficult but we are working hard on our preparation. The players are in good condition and we have made good progress throughout the tournaments.

'The motivation is there to do well. We have the same group of players who played for us this season.'

In Los Angeles, France lost 24-5 to Australia in the cup quarter-finals and then went on to lose to Fiji in the semi-finals of the plate. They earlier managed a thumping 52-0 victory over Mexico and a revenge 29-12 win against Kenya. They lost their last pool match 22-5 to Argentina to finish second in their group.

Their performance was enough to earn four ranking points, the first points France had won in the four tournaments.

It was a vast improvement on earlier performances. In the first tournament in Dubai, France were relegated to the bowl, losing 10-5 to Portugal in the final. In George, they reached the shield final - the lowest rung of the four trophies available. But once again, Portugal were there to thwart them, 17-12.

Their run of finals ended at Wellington, where they fell to Kenya in the bowl semi-finals.

Team: 1. Vincent Forgues, 2. Martial Molinie, 3. Julien Carraud, 4. Brice Salobert, 5. Patrick Bosque, 6. Renaud Dulin, 7. Yohan Dalla Riva, 8. Laurent Ferreres, 9. Rida Jaouher, 10. Jerome Naves, 11. Cedric Desbrosse, 12. Julien Malzieu.

WC flashback: 1993 - bowl semi-finals; 1997 - cup quarter-finals; 2001 - bowl quarter-finals.

Player to watch: Julian Malzieu.

Numbers: 189,628 registered players (185,929 men, 3,699 women).

Prediction: Plate.


7 Facts

1 Gets the most tourists in the world (76,503,000 in 2001)

2 The French consume the most cheese in Europe - 24.1kg per head per year

3 Over 30,000 werewolf cases were tried there between 1520 and 1630

4 French fries aren't really French, but were probably invented in Belgium

5 French author Michel Thaler published a 233-page novel which has no verbs

6 The Eiffel Tower shrinks six inches in winter

7 Gave the world: the bidet