Coach: France needs more aggression at World Cup
Updated: October 06, 2011, 01:31
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Defense coach David Ellis is concerned that France has been too preoccupied with discipline at the Rugby World Cup and has to show much more aggression against England in the quarterfinal.
France has been among the least penalized teams at the World Cup, but Ellis thinks trying too hard to stay on the right side of the rules may have taken some sting out of the team.
Recent defeats to New Zealand and Tonga exposed a lack of bite in the French midfield and a weakness in the tackle. Any passivity is likely to be ruthlessly punished by England on Saturday.
France has long been regarded as one of world rugby's most entertaining yet least disciplined teams, equally capable of wonderful tries and imploding under pressure.
That trend has been reversed too much for Ellis' liking. The discipline is good, but the flair has gone.
"A major factor over the last decade to bring French standards up to world standards was discipline,'' Ellis said. "We've gone too far the wrong way. Now we're that content on not giving penalties away, and being penalized less than 10 times a game, we've taken a bit of our aggression out of the game and I think we need to put that back in.''
Head coach Marc Lievremont has also urged his squad to play on the edge of the rules more and to stop being model disciplinarians.
Ellis thinks being more aggressive might help trigger the flair the French have laced in the 2011 tournament.
"I think it's the culture of the players, the culture of the game in France. The players rely on a lot of emotion,'' said Ellis, who is English. "Sometimes when you look at what's happened over the first four games they haven't really had to put that emotion into gear.''
Playing with unwavering consistency suited South Africa and England, the last two World Cup winners, but it seems to be more of a constraint for France.
Have the mavericks of world rugby now become too preoccupied with copying more well-drilled sides?
"A lot of French people say to me the Anglo-Saxons rely on consistency,'' Ellis said. "I think the French rely a little bit on inconsistency. They embrace the challenge and there's a big challenge,'' against England.
With two scrappy wins against Japan and Canada, and two losses to New Zealand and Tonga, there is little to suggest France will produce one of its flamboyant World Cup performances, like when it rallied to beat New Zealand in both the 1999 and 2007 World Cups.
Playing England, an old and fierce rival, may just be the enticement France needs to rediscover its spark.
"The enemy's right in front of you. There's no greater motivation than that,'' Ellis said. "The history's there. History for the French is a very important thing. I'm certain it's in the back of the players' minds that they can do it this weekend.''
France will need to stand up to England's scrum to have a chance of breaking down a defense that has conceded only one try so far in four matches.
"If we get quick ball then you'll see tries. How many I don't know because England are a very good defensive team,'' Ellis said. "If we can get on the front foot via the forwards and quick ball from the ruck, I think automatically the attacking play will click into place.''