Rugby: French look to bounce back against Namibia

15th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

TOULOUSE, France, Sept 15, 2007 (AFP) - Embattled France cannot gain full redemption for their loss in the World Cup opener when they take on lowly Namibia in Toulouse on Sunday, but they can take a first step in that direction.

TOULOUSE, France, Sept 15, 2007 (AFP) - Embattled France cannot gain full redemption for their loss in the World Cup opener when they take on lowly Namibia in Toulouse on Sunday, but they can take a first step in that direction.

The shock waves from the stunning 12-17 reverse to Argentina in Paris last Friday are still reverbating around the country and coach Bernard Laporte has reacted by benching some of his biggest names and team leaders for his side's second game.

Among those out of the starting lineup and onto the bench went skipper Rafael Ibanez, former captain Fabien Pelous and influential centre Yannick Jauzion.

Laporte brought in 12 players including the Toulouse halfback partnership of the mercurial Frederic Michalak and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, who will captain the side.

Only South African-born prop Pieter de Villiers, centre Damien Traille and Cedric Heymans survive from the team that started against Argentina with the latter switching back to his regular post of wing after an under-par performance at fullback. Toulouse team-mate Clement Poitrenaud returns at fullback.

Wholescale changes, however, had been expected against the likely Pool D whipping boys, as Laporte tries to keep his veterans fresh before the big match against Ireland in Paris next Thursday.

The French coach, who has been roundly criticised since the loss to Argentina, has made it clear he wants to see a new attitude from his players, but he has warned that Namibia will be no pushovers.

"They have our respect," he said. "When you look at the way they performed against Ireland, you can't take them lightly.

"We need to be patient, we will have to put some points onto the score board, using a kicking game if need be, then score four tries later.

"It is not going to be possible to breach their defence in the first minute. That just won't happen."

Traille said the players knew that they now had no further room for errors.

"We have to get back on our feet before facing the Irish," he said. "We have got to use the confidence we built up during the training phase.

"Above all, the guys have got to communicate among each other. Games and defeats happen, but we players can change."

Defeat against Namibia may be out of the question but the southwest Africans did raise a few eyebrows with a spirited performance in their opener which they lost 17-32 to Ireland.

Coach Hakkies Husselman has largely given that team a vote of confidence with just two changes made for the game against France.

Jurie van Tonder takes over from Eugene Jantjies at scrum-half and Michael Mackenzie will start at blindside flanker in a reshuffled back row after Hendrik Senekal suffered a calf injury against Ireland.

"France will be much more physical," Husselman predicted of the the hosts.

"The fact France have chosen Sebastien Chabal as lock means they have a good runner with the ball.

"They will carry the ball much better this time. I think ball presentation will be better and they will keep the ball better."

Flanker Mike MacKenzie agreed and said that the Namibians needed to produce a performance similar to the one they put in against the Irish.

"I think they will come back 200 percent," he said of the French.

"They know they need to win this game, they are the host nation and can't go out. It will be our hardest game in the competition especially as it is mnake or break for them."

The countries have played once before with France winning 47-13 at Bordeaux during the 1999 World Cup

AFP

Subject: French news

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