England's French nemesis out to haunt them

8th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

MARCOUSSIS, France, March 8, 2007 (AFP) - The last thing a demoralised England probably wished to see as they try and bounce back from a record defeat to Ireland would have been the name of Dimitri Yachvili appearing on the starting XV for France for this Sunday's Six Nations clash.

MARCOUSSIS, France, March 8, 2007 (AFP) - The last thing a demoralised England probably wished to see as they try and bounce back from a record defeat to Ireland would have been the name of Dimitri Yachvili appearing on the starting XV for France for this Sunday's Six Nations clash.

The 26-year-old Biarritz scrum-half will be making his first start in the tournament but nevertheless his record against England in the Six Nations has been such that it has appeared he is more like a one man destroyer.

It is a notion that Yachvili - who has played second fiddle to Pierre Mignoni in France's first three matches which has seen the titleholders move towards the Grand Slam with three wins - tries to dismiss.

"I don't consider myself to be an England specialist," says a bashful Yachvili, who will win his 32nd cap on Sunday.

"It is England after all who have been dominant over us in the past few years."

That seems all a little far fetched for a man who has systematically destroyed the world champions in a series of matches both with his boot and his ability to open up the game.

Yachvili, whose fighting qualities should be no surprise as his Georgia-born grandfather fought with the Soviet Army at Stalingrad against Germany, was subsequently captured and fought with the Germans before settling in France, started his matchwinning account by scoring 19 points in France's 24-21 win over England to clinch the Grand Slam in 2004.

A year later and Yachvili was back to haunt England again as he kicked all 18 points in a stunning 18-17 win over their bitter rivals at Twickenham and in 2005 he was there again to score 16 points in France's crushing 31-6 hammering of the wilting world champions at the Stade de France.

Yachvili, though, again is at pains to reject the idea that he is England's nemesis.

"Twickenham is not my back garden. Remember I was in the French side that was slaughtered 45-14 in the warm-up match for the 2003 World Cup," he said.

Nevertheless Yachvili is one of several members of the French squad who while they have experienced club rugby in England - he had a season in 2001-02 with Gloucester - has appeared in past years to send out ambivalent signals about his feelings about the old enemy when it comes to playing them.

When speaking in English he is all politeness and says how much he has to thank them in terms of his development as a player while he was at Gloucester and on other occasions when interviewed by the French media reverts back to the old style of the arrogance of the English and how nice it would be to beat them.

Yachvili, who may well end up facing his brother in this year's World Cup as he has opted to play for Georgia who are in France's group, is more focussed on putting up a performance this weekend that places him closer to sealing a place in the final World Cup squad where apart from Mignoni he faces competition from Toulouse number nine Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.

"Despite not playing a starting role so far in the Six Nations training with the rest of the squad has allowed me to do things I don't normally do in the week leading up to an international," he said.

"It has also given me some time to rest up as I have played a lot for Biarritz this season."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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