French feeling the pain after World Cup crash

14th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS (AFP) - France was nursing a painful hangover on Sunday the day after a six-week long rugby binge had come to a shattering halt against England at the Stade de France.

PARIS (AFP) - France was nursing a painful hangover on Sunday the day after a six-week long rugby binge had come to a shattering halt against England at the Stade de France.

The underdog English sent the French favourites reeling out of a competition they had pledged to win on home soil with a 14-9 semi-final win sealed late in the game by a penalty and a drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson.

It was the Newcastle flyhalf that also stuck the knife into France at the same stage of the World Cup four years ago when he kicked all of England's points in a 24-7 triumph.

"The Same Nightmare as Four Years Ago," moaned Le Journal du Dimanche.

"Just like four years ago, the French dream was destroyed by English realism.

"Les Bleus were unable to take the chance they had and they will regret it for ever, because (Bernard) Laporte's men ... were clearly superior to an England XV who were far from brilliant but who had an iron will.

Sports daily L'Equipe, which has been running a separate rugby section for the last six weeks, ran on its front page with "La Non de la Rose" playing on the title of Umberto Eco's medieval murder mystery that later became a box office hit.

That banner headline was accompanied by a striking picture of hard-man lock-forward Sebastien Chabal in obvious distress after the match holding a hand up to his head.

"Caveman" Chabal, who broke down in tears on the pitch at the end of the game, featured on most front pages as in the space of a few weeks his take-no-prisoners style of driving rugby had come to symbolise French hopes of winning the World Cup for the first time.

L'Equipe said that all that was left for the vanquished French now was to play either South Africa or Argentina in a play-off for third place that no-one cared much about.

"Only winning counts especially when it is against our neighbours," the paper's main colummist wrote.
"This defeat is all the more painful after Sebastien Chanal was stopped three metres short of the English line after a move that could have won the game for us."

"England Shatter French Dreams," headline Le Parisien Dimanche. "For 80 minutes, Les Bleus were repelled by a white wall.

"Heroic in defence, Phil Vickery's team-mates relied on the magical boot of Jonny Wilkinson to once again make the difference with a magnificent drop in the final minutes."

The Saturday night match that drew a capacity 80,000 crowd to the Stade de France in the northern Paris suburb of St Denis, including tens of thousands of England fans, broke television viewing figures for a rugby match with 18.3 million people tuning in.

It was the best viewing figures of the year for the TF1 station surpassing the presidential election debates in May, although it was four million short of the 22.1 million who watched France beat Portugal in the football World Cup semi-finals last summer.

Similar viewing figures were clocked up on the previous Saturday when France went into celebratory mode after an upset 20-18 win over tournament favourites New Zealand.

Many more took in the France v England game in front of giant screens at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and in other major cities such as Bordeaux, Toulouse and Marseille, but hugely-anticipated celebrations were cruelly aborted by the late English drive.

The defeat will see several stalwarts of the French XV over the last decade head off into retirement including two past skippers in Raphael Ibanez and Fabien Pelous and will see the search gather pace to replace coach Bernard Laporte who is to take up a position in the government's sports ministry.

French Rugby Federation chief Barnard Lapasset has said there are two candidates for the high-profile job and that a decision would be taken in the fortnight that follows next Saturday's World Cup final.

The early favourite is former French team captain and currently general manager of rugby at English club side Sale, Philippe Saint-Andre.


Subject: French news

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