French exhort heroism in Cardiff

Photosport     29 Sep 2007     Photosport

During Friday's captain's press conference, All Blacks captain against Romania Jerry Collins was asked what he thought of the French saying the All Blacks were scared to play France in Cardiff because of what happened in the 1999 World Cup semi-final when France beat the All Blacks.

Collins retorted that he has never said he was afraid.

He said he supposed that the French beliefs were an example of why there were not many people in the world who could figure out what another person was thinking.

Clearly the French realise that a loss to the All Blacks in a quarter-final would be a severe blow to their hopes in a home event.

Some sectors of the French media are calling the clash, Operation Commando.

In a look at what would be required to win, the newspaper Midi Olympique said the French would have to respect basic principles of the game. These included winning and retaining possession of the ball, constant defence and occupation of New Zealand's territory while playing with great discipline.

The French would have to compete in every department and its replacements would have to be strong as well.

The newspaper believed that in both attack and defence, remembering the counter-attacking ability of the All Blacks, the French could make a good contest of it.

However, they would need to kick well and also to obtain fast ball from rucks. Amid all that, it was vital to retain a clearness of thought to find faults in the All Blacks' defences.

The paper asked Australian coach John Connolly what was needed to beat New Zealand and he replied that it was necessary to play without errors and to hold onto the ball.

It was a priority above all others to deny the All Blacks counter-attacking ball because they are so effective in turning it back. But the All Blacks, like the South Africans, could always be beaten by a team prepared to work hard and without faults.

Jake White, the South African coach, was also asked for his opinion and he agreed about retaining the ball but added that it was also necessary to steal some ball from the All Blacks.

He added that the fewer faults in defense the better. He also said that to be beaten they should be surprised and to play quickly against them and not to waste any ball.

In an editorial on the subject Jacques Verdier said if France is to beat the All Blacks it needed a base of pride and courage.

He called on examples of heroism from the past including one story of a young French merchant sailor who fell into the Pacific and swam for 11 hours during the night while hoping that someone would return to find him.

"How much of a chance was there that the boat would find him?

"About as much for Les Bleus to beat the All Blacks.

"But he believed and the first requirement was not to give up."

He added another story about American airmen escaping from the Japanese in World War Two and said they were examples of the courage, imbued with optimism that carried them beyond the normal refusal to yield.

Rather than resort to pessimism, the French should encourage their side to achieve the mentality of those heroes, he said.

"It is a chance in their lives that will not pass their way again and if not taken it will be gone forever," he said.