Rugby: Odd couple Laporte and Maso eye glorious French swansong

24th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 24, 2007 (AFP) - Once the tournament comes to an end, Laporte will take up his job as French government sports minister; for Maso, the marathon event will be the last call after years of dedicated service as a player and administrator.

PARIS, Aug 24, 2007 (AFP) - Once the tournament comes to an end, Laporte will take up his job as French government sports minister; for Maso, the marathon event will be the last call after years of dedicated service as a player and administrator.

Before they leave, their task will be to deliver a World Cup for the first time.

They are a contrasting pair.

Laporte was a conservative scrum-half for Begles-Bordeaux while Maso was a dashing centre for France in the 1970s.

Laporte has made his name as a coach, having got the French job after raising Stade Francais to champions of France while Maso was part of the management team that saw France to the 1999 World Cup final.

However, styles have switched since their playing careers finished.

Laporte has been controversial and colourful while Maso has adopted the role of diplomat. 

For Laporte, reputations mean little and he has been in the headlines in recent weeks for his opinions on the All Blacks, who could be quarter-final opponents. 

"They've made their choice: and that is to play to the limit of the rules and sometimes beyond," was Laporte's view of the All Blacks, the overwhelming World Cup favourites.

"They have mastered the art of going to the edge of what's allowed."

Laporte claims his outburst was not prompted by his team's two defeats in New Zealand earlier this summer. 

"There's no doubt there was a gulf between both teams. The All Blacks were superior to us (New Zealand won 42-11 and 61-10) but it becomes an issue if the referee doesn't whistle when they commit fouls."

In June, Laporte was accused of threatening to end the career of referee Stuart Dickinson after the Australian had officiated the first Test in Wellington where France lost 42-11.

But Laporte denied he made threats.

"I was never threatening. Stuart Dickinson has confirmed this. I just said to him that you can't always be happy to say, 'oh yes, it's a refereeing error'.

Maso, by contrast, has played the perfect sidekick in downplaying some of Laporte's comments especially over allegations over doping in the game.

"What he (Laporte) said exactly was that he knew how we (France) were organised in order to be as reassured as possible," said Maso.

"We do blood controls every week. He also said he could not speak on behalf of the Southern Hemisphere or the British because he doesn't know their set-ups.

"He never said he was suspicious of those particular nations."

Mind games? Of course, that is the Laporte way.

But come the kick-off on September 7 against Argentina he will have to deliver where it matters - on the pitch.

If it is bad news then depend on Maso to deliver it.

AFP

Subject: French news

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