France forwards hatch a plan to stop Wales
Updated: October 14, 2011, 02:26
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) France's forwards know they simply have to stop Wales' mobile pack from dictating the game in Saturday's Rugby World Cup semifinal, or risk getting overrun.
France has talented, experienced forwards of its own, but does not have the same speed and overall mobility of the Welsh.
Edging the scrum battle will be crucial to France's chances of winning through to their third final.
France must prevent the flow of balls to Wales' destructive backline, which boasts the brutal running of center Jamie Roberts, the mercurial playmaking of James Hook and the clinical finishing skills of veteran winger Shane Williams.
Prop Nicolas Mas is looking forward to the challenge of tiring Wales out. Having played his only match of the tournament so far in the quarterfinal win against England, he should have plenty of energy.
"We need to be efficient up front, make them run a lot, wear them out in the scrums and the maul to prevent them from being everywhere on the field,'' Mas said. "They have a very good scrum, they're good at the put-in and release the ball very quickly.''
Mas does not care much for the finer points of strategy, and will leave that to coach Marc Lievremont to decide.
"We (the forwards) are not really meant to think. We're there to be efficient and to give good ball to the backs,'' he said. "They have a very combative team and never give up. They're sometimes in difficulty but always manage to get out of trouble.''
Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins will take on Mas and Jean-Baptiste Poux in what promises to be an even contest between two sets of veteran props.
The French locks, Pascal Pape and Lionel Nallet, face an equally hard task against Alun-Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris.
The backrow contest could end up being the most decisive, however.
France boasts No. 8 Imanol Harinordoquy and flanker Julien Bonnaire - both were outstanding against England - as well as captain Thierry Dusautoir, a fierce tackler who will be trying to keep Hook in check.
But with No. 8 Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate, Wales has a quicker backrow than France and could cause damage if the French can't protect their ruck ball.
"Their front five are very mobile, their second-rowers are good in the lineouts. They're a little more mobile than us,'' Pape said. "It's up to us to make them run a bit less. We have to rob them of the ball and impose our authority on the game.''
Pape watched a rerun of Wales' quarterfinal win against Ireland - and found little source of comfort.
"Their scrum never really gets dominated and are very strong in the put-in,'' he said. "They caused Ireland a lot of problems.''
Wales is at its devastating best when it plays an expansive style of rugby, said France defense coach David Ellis.
"They attack a lot and they use the width a lot. They attack as a unit, their forwards are capable of passing,'' Ellis said. "They're a really efficient team. We have to hold our position in every area of the field.''