French grateful for scraps after waking from slumber
Coach Pomeral puts on brave face but admits rising standards of play are making life difficult
Dreams can come true - or can be shattered in a second in sevens, meaning the difference between playing for the Cup or the Shield. That was the case for fifth-ranked France over the weekend. They struggled to regain their composure after losing to Kenya by only two points in the pool rounds, setting them on a slippery slope that ended on a little high with a win over Argentina to take the Shield.
"A shield is a shield," said French coach Frédéric Pomeral half-heartedly of his 19-14 defeat of Argentina.
"Of course, I'd prefer to go to the top. But the difference between the teams now is very small. In one second you can win and go to the final; in one second you are in the Shield. All the teams are in the same box," he said.
The French team were visibly lethargic in the Bowl quarter-finals yesterday morning, only managing one try against a switched-on England side, who gave them a 42-5 hiding. The team perked up later with a win over a frazzled Scottish side, securing their place in the finals.
"They were asleep this morning for sure," said Pomeral, blaming the hot weather and a challenging pool against New Zealand, Kenya and United States on Saturday for their lacklustre performance. "In sevens, when your head is good, it is good; when your head is not good it is very, very difficult."
Argentina also blamed tough pool rounds for their uninspiring performance on finals Sunday.
"The boys are quite tired. We had hard matches in our pool against Australia, South Africa and Wales," said coach Andres Romagnoli.
But exhaustion was no excuse for a loss in the Bowl quarter-finals against home heroes Hong Kong. "Hong Kong has improved, they are playing well - much better than other years. We, on the other hand, didn't play very well," he said.
"We have to improve the breakdown, work on moving the ball better along the field and reduce our mistakes, "said Romagnoli, later adding "and play better".
For Pomeral, this week is unlikely to be enough to remedy the mistakes over the weekend and bring together his team. "We need more time," he lamented. "We have young players and 15s players and I need time …. we need to be concentrated every time, and we learned that this weekend."
French captain Vincent Deniau acknowledged they needed to work on their game execution if they are are going to regain their place in the top five in the rest of the series. "In sevens each mistake is a try against you. We have to work on being regular."