Rugby: Player power fails as Laporte benches stars for Namibia clash

12th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

MARCOUSSIS, France, Sept 12, 2007 (AFP) - France coach Bernard Laporte snubbed three of his veteran players including captain Raphael Ibanez and left them out of the starting line-up for Sunday's World Cup clash with minnows Namibia in Toulouse.

MARCOUSSIS, France, Sept 12, 2007 (AFP) - France coach Bernard Laporte snubbed three of his veteran players including captain Raphael Ibanez and left them out of the starting line-up for Sunday's World Cup clash with minnows Namibia in Toulouse.

Indeed the normally urbane and unflappable team manager Jo Maso was visibly irritated and said that it was him and Laporte who picked the team and not the players as France attempt to rebound from their stunning 17-12 defeat by Argentina in their World Cup opener.

Laporte brought in 12 players to the starting line-up 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 starting line-up 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.

Veterans such as Ibanez and former skipper Fabien Pelous drop to the bench but only as an insurance measure ahead of the potentially do or die match with Six Nations Triple Crown winners Ireland five days later at the Stade de France.

However both Ibanez (93 caps) and Pelous (114 caps) as well as star centre Yannick Jauzion (45 caps) had indicated on Tuesday they wanted to play, but this provoked a rare angry reaction from Maso.

"It is us who select the team and not the players," said Maso, who was also part of the management team when France reached the 1999 World Cup final.

"There is another match, against Ireland, five days later.

"We put the captains of the team either on the bench or rested them entirely like Serge Betsen. But we need players like that, like Raphael Ibanez who remains without doubt our captain."

Laporte supported Maso.

"It is a long road," said Laporte.

"It is vital to look after those players aged 34 and 35, like Raphael Ibanez."

Laporte, who has been ridiculed this week in the popular puppet current affairs programme 'Guignols' showing him wearing a France shirt but emblazoned with a badge with the logo not of the FFR but of the government party the UMP as a reference to his being appointed Sports Minister, said he had read the riot act to several players.

"We told those players who did not play well against Argentina exactly that," said Laporte, who was also the subject of an acerbic cartoon in 'L'Equipe' on Wednesday highlighting his business interests which has caused some controversy in France.

"We said it to Christophe Dominici and to Yannick Jauzion. We told them that we expected something else of them."


Team (15-1)

Clement Poitrenaud; Vincent Clerc, David Marty, Damien Traille, Cedric Heymans; Frederic Michalak, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (capt); Julien Bonnaire, Thierry Dusautoir, Yannick Nyanga; Jerome Nallet, Sebastien Chabal; Pieter de Villiers, Dimitri Szarzewski, Jean-Baptiste Poux

Replacements: Raphael Ibanez, Olivier Mas, Fabien Pelous, Imanol Harinordoquy, Lionel Beauxis, Yannick Jauzion, Aurelien Rougerie.

AFP

Subject: French news

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