We'll never underestimate English, says Laporte
8 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - France coach Bernard Laporte insisted on Monday that he would never underestimate England despite the defending World Cup champions having been dismissed as too old to survive the tournament.
8 October 2007
PARIS (AFP) - France coach Bernard Laporte insisted on Monday that he would never underestimate England despite the defending World Cup champions having been dismissed as too old to survive the tournament.
The English, who silenced their critics by knocking out Australia in the quarter-finals, will renew their long-standing rivalry with the French in the semi-finals on Saturday in what will be the 90th clash between the two nations.
"We know the English well," said Laporte. "We never said they were a bad team, they were simply going through a difficult period.
"It will be a difficult match and we will have to prepare well. I have never known a World Cup semi-final to be easy."
France, who knocked out tournament favourites New Zealand in their quarter-final in Cardiff on Saturday, are aware that the English have two deadly weapons - their pack and the boot of Jonny Wilkinson.
The England fly-half has been a constant thorn in the side of the French.
He scored all of his team's points in the 24-7 semi-final win in Australia in 2003 and has amassed 130 points in his international career against his country's most implaccable opponent.
Wilkinson kicked all of the points in his team's 12-10 win over Australia in Marseille.
"I watched their win over Australia and someone said to me: 'The English are going to win'. I was thinking the same thing because their pack was advancing.
"And then they had Wilkinson who missed some kicks at goal but he allowed them to stay in their opponents' half."
Laporte believes his team, who lost their opening game to Argentina but have bounced back impressively, can go all the way to the final.
"The quarter-final is finished. We haven't won the final and we want to be world champions," said the coach.
Despite the unexpected defeats of Australia and New Zealand, Laporte does not believe that there is a power shift underway from the southern to the northern hemisphere teams.
"The south have dominated but Australia and New Zealand played some one-sided matches which were misleading," said Laporte of a first round which saw the All Blacks and Wallabies relatively untested.
Subject: French news