Veterans heed Lievremont's fears over complacency
Updated: October 11, 2011, 04:17
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Coach Marc Lievremont and his senior players are making it clear to the rest of the squad that they must forget France's run of results against Wales heading into Saturday's Rugby World Cup semifinal.
France has won six of the last seven matches against Wales.
"The danger is to fall into a form of self-satisfaction,'' Lievremont said Tuesday. "We've beaten Wales for the last three times, and to think about that is already to start to lose.''
More concerning for Lievremont is that having overturned the odds to beat England in the World Cup quarterfinals, a feeling of euphoria has swept through the previously embattled French team.
The pressure on France was intense after its humiliating defeat against Tonga in its last pool match, and it responded with an impressive win over 2003 champion England.
"Everyone's pleased with the win, I think that the more senior players have to be even more present this week,'' 35-year-old lock Lionel Nallet said. "In a way, I think it was easy last week, we were angry and the training sessions took care of themselves.
"We have to keep up the pressure within the squad, the kind of pressure France needs.''
Eight of France's squad for Saturday's match were involved in the despairing World Cup semifinal defeat to England in 2007, which came right after an inspirational win over a New Zealand team that had been sweeping teams aside for three years.
"It's not just 2007, there have been other times and there's always that risk. We have to be aware of that,'' Nallet said. "We've got a lot a talent, but as soon as we forget the basics we become a very weak team. As soon as we're ready for combat, ready mentally and want to shake up our opponents, that already counts for a lot.''
France may have the upper hand against Wales recently, but the way Warren Gatland's Welsh team has been playing at the World Cup has been widely praised.
"It would be a huge mistake to think we can beat them easily. The Welsh team has improved a lot,'' France hooker William Servat said. "They have an extraordinary generation of young players, players with a lot of heart and pride. We will probably need a bit more pride to win this match.''
Lievremont has been much criticized for constantly tinkering with his team, for turning scrumhalf Morgan Parra into a makeshift flyhalf, and for keeping backrower Imanol Harinordoquy on the bench for the last two pool matches.
But his unconventional methods are increasingly starting to make sense. Parra looked assured when marking England's Jonny Wilkinson, while Harinordoquy played with a furious sense of determination against the English after stewing on the bench for the previous two matches.
Lievremont's latest innovation this week has been to get the players together to review the video of the England win again - but without him in the room.
Nallet thinks this makes a refreshing change, and gives the players no hiding place from each other's trenchant views.
"It's a bit new. It's the opinions of your teammates and it makes you take things on board a bit more,'' he said. "We're used to coaches talking every week at club level and with the national team.''
Analyzing their own faults and strong points is one thing, taking on a dominant Wales backline is another.
Wales center Jamie Roberts has been in rampaging form, prompting even Lievremont to describe him as the tournament's best center.
Having withstood the repeated battering-ram runs of England center Manu Tuilagi in midfield, French centers Aurelien Rougerie and Maxime Mermoz now have to stand up to Roberts and the rest of the Welsh backs.
"We'll have to try and anticipate what they're going to try and do,'' said Mermoz, whose heavily bruised left cheek is testimony to the England game. "First of all that means standing up to them physically.''