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Dusautoir says French lacking confidence at RWCup

Updated: September 29, 2011, 22:46

WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) France captain Thierry Dusautoir is worried that his team's gradually developing lack of confidence has become a heavy burden at the Rugby World Cup.

On the eve of France's decisive pool A match against Tonga, Dusautoir said the time has come for France to shed its inhibitions and start playing properly.

After clinching the Six Nations Championship with a Grand Slam in 2010, France's level inexplicably dipped.

France went on to lose 42-17 in South Africa, 41-13 in Argentina and was on the receiving end of a 59-16 hammering from Australia at Stade de France last November.

France then relinquished its Six Nations title, losing away to England before a humiliating defeat in Italy.

"Our last season wasn't good, unfortunately we're still carrying it like a burden,'' Dusautoir said. "Only big games and big performances will allow us to forget the bad experiences we had.''

Although France beat Ireland in its two World Cup warmup matches, it failed to carry any momentum into the tournament and labored to scrappy wins against Japan and Canada before losing 37-17 to New Zealand last weekend.

"Our performances haven't been exceptional so far,'' Dusautoir said. "All of this stems from a lack of confidence. It would be good to be totally free of this and to play all out.''

France has always qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup, losing the final in 1987 and '99, but will be eliminated if Tonga scores four tries and wins by more than seven points in Wellington on Saturday.

France center Aurelien Rougerie has spoken of how he thinks the players are perhaps clamming up for fear of making mistakes, instead of daring to play the high-risk, high-tempo style that was once the hallmark of the French rugby teams.

"I will encourage them to free themselves and take the pressure of their shoulders,'' Dusautoir said.

A transparent midfield and a wafer-thin defensive line cost France dearly against the All Blacks when it conceded three early tries, and two more in the second half.

"I was afraid we might fall apart after conceding three tries in the space of about 10 minutes,'' coach Marc Lievremont said Friday. "But in the second half my players showed some determination.''

France did come back at the All Blacks late in that game at Eden Park, which Dusautoir sees as an encouraging sign his team can turn the corner and step up a level later on in the tournament.

"I was satisfied with the New Zealand match in terms of our commitment, we battled until the end,'' Dusautoir said. "Our main problem has always been consistency and concentration. That's cost us in games. We didn't concentrate well against Japan and Canada.''

France must also be more aggressive during matches, according to Lievremont, and more sublte in its adherence to refereeing guidelines.

"We're the least penalized team in the tournament, I think, or not far off,'' Lievremont said. "Sometimes you have to play on the edge of the rules, which we weren't doing enough.''

Lievremont said it's "absolutely not'' a case of hardening up the game through "improper behavior.''

"I'm not talking about being nasty,'' he said, but France has "been too nice with regards to respecting the rules.''

Saturday's contest is likely to be physical and provides the ideal chance for Lievremont's team to increase its aggression, and to prove Tonga captain Finau Maka wrong for mocking supposed weaknesses in France's midfield and in the front row of the scrum.

Dusautoir and Maka were former teammates at French club Toulouse.

"He's someone I get on with very well, we played for nearly four years together so we know each other pretty well,'' Dusautoir said. "He sent me a text message to get him some tickets for (Saturday).''

Tongans are expected to dominate the crowd, dwarfing the group of traveling French fans.

Asked if he had done his old teammate a favor, Dusautoir replied: "Yes, I got some.''

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