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France regroups after sloppy win against Japan

Updated: September 11, 2011, 01:26


TAKAPUNA, New Zealand - Coach Marc Lievremont continued to lambast his players a day after France's sloppy opening performance against Japan in the rugby World Cup.

Although France scored six tries in the 47-21 win, the way Japan closed the deficit from 25-11 to 25-21 and threatened an upset was deeply concerning for Lievremont.

Lievremont was curt and sometimes brutal in assessing his own team the morning after the match.

"We wanted control, commitment, consistency over the match, and we got it all wrong in that sense,'' he said. "We became more and more nervous, leading up to a situation one hour into the game that became very difficult.''

Lievremont, who says he shouted at his players in the dressing room at halftime and after the game, also feels his players are not taking enough responsibility for the national team.

"They're the ones who are playing, the ones out on the pitch,'' he said. "It's all well and good to say we discuss things with them, but at some stage they're on the pitch, it's up to them to sort out the problems.''

The week leading up to next Sunday's match against Canada is likely to prove tense, with Lievremont expecting far more self-criticism from his own players and with a painful video analysis of their performance in store for them.

"They haven't seen the match on video, but they know, they know they were casual,'' he said. "It's a shame to have to go through this, it's a shame not to have put in a better performance, not to start the competition in a good way.''

France prop Fabien Barcella said that his team had been gripped by fear.

"Honestly, we gave ourselves a fright. We will remember the victory, and that's the most important thing, but there were deficiencies everywhere,'' Barcella said. "We got out of it well, but we weren't far from a catastrophe. We clearly felt the pressure.''

Lievremont has got into the habit of dishing out heavy criticism of the team, doing so after the 59-16 defeat to Australia last November and following a shock 22-21 defeat to Italy in March.

He is also on shaky ground as he will be replaced after the tournament. Perhaps, given that it's his last tournament, he is not holding back.

"Our match was littered with loose play, technical mistakes, errors of discipline,'' Lievremont said. "Wastefulness in our finishing, wastefulness in our organization.''

Many observers, and reportedly some of the players in his own team, think that Lievremont's persistent tinkering with his lineups is actually responsible for the lack of cohesion and the absence of a hardcore within his team.

"Certain (people) wouldn't hesitate to stir up the fact that perhaps these mistakes stem from poor management, from permanently rotating the team,'' a defensive Lievremont offered. "I remain convinced that you have to involve 30 players over the two matches.''

Lievremont insists that his players are more to blame than his methods.

On the eve of the match he had criticized them for a lack of application in training, and he thinks that factor carried over into Saturday's below-par performance.

"I make a correlation with the match and, in a way, Thursday's training session,'' he said. "We'd had a good start to the week ... but as soon as we put in place (a training session) that is a bit more technical, we become casual, with unpredictable individual behavior.''

Only hooker William Servat, returning from a lengthy injury, and captain Thierry Dusautoir escaped Lievremont's wrath.

He was critical of flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc and scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili for not creating enough good ball, saying their combination was "labored during the match'' and the kicking game gave Japan attacking opportunities.

The attitude shown by the forwards was the next item on Lievremont's long hit list.

"The second row was untidy, conceding too many penalties, players who were more sloppy in their conduct - I'm thinking of Imanol (Harinordoquy), who was casual, as he can be.''

Although Harinordoquy, scorer of 13 test tries, is considered one of the best flankers in the world, Lievremont didn't reserve judgment on his performance.

"His conduct (against Japan) annoyed me,'' Lievremont said. "We know his talent, and very often he was extremely amateurish in certain phases. Given his experience and the role he has in this team, it's annoying.''

Lievremont was challenged by a French journalist over his team strategy, and whether he would be better served by a less ambitious style of rugby.

"That's not the first time you've asked me this question. In order to play what kind of rugby?'' Lievremont snapped back. "I don't get the impression we're going to be world champions playing a minimalist game.''

Asked why he is constantly having to reproach his vastly experienced players for their poor attitude and commitment, Lievremont was - for once - lost for words.

"Why? I don't know, because it's like that,'' he said.

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