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Jenkins wary of French kickers ahead of semifinal

Updated: October 10, 2011, 04:21


AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins predicts Saturday's World Cup semifinal against France could be decided by which team is more clinical with the boot, rather than which has the best backs.

While both have pace and skill, the tension of playing for a place in the final may curtail their natural attacking instincts and produce a more clinical brand of rugby where kicking opportunities are seized upon.

In that respect, Jenkins thinks France is well armed with scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili and makeshift flyhalf Morgan Parra kicking with consistency during the tournament, and replacement No. 10 Francois Trinh-Duc landing a crucial dropped goal against England.

"I think in reality it will come down to the kickers,'' Jenkins said Monday. "The French boys have been kicking very well so far, so the idea is it will come down to that and to goal kicking, it will be a very tough and a very tight game.''

Parra and Yachvili have come through with their kicking in games against Canada and England, respectively.

Yachvili landed two early penalties in last weekend's quarterfinal win against England and has landed over nine overall.

"I think it will come down to kicking. Two evenly balanced sides. When it comes down to it, it could go down to the kickers and who takes the points when they're on offer,'' Jenkins said. "I don't see an awful lot in the game. When chances are there it's important that you take them. Could be dropped goals, kicks at goals.''

France has won six out of the last seven meetings between the teams, but Wales has been playing the better rugby at the World Cup.

"We're under no illusions how tough it's going to be on Saturday,'' Jenkins said. "If France turn up and bring their 'A' game they're one of the best teams in the world. They can turn the best sides over.''

When the teams last met, during this year's Six Nations Championship in March, France won 28-9.

On the way to its Grand Slam success the previous in 2010, France wiped Wales away with a devastating first-half performance to open up a 20-0 lead, eventually winning 26-20.

France played poorly in the pool stages of the World Cup, even losing to Tonga, but raised its level to beat England last weekend, again with a devastating first-half spell to open up a 16-0 lead.

Much-maligned France coach Marc Lievremont was pilloried for dropping Trinh-Duc, but Parra's transition from scrumhalf to No. 10 has gone better than most critics predicted.

"Parra is an outstanding player, a world class player. He has shown he can play 10 as well,'' Jenkins said. "They're very lucky. I know with France a lot of nines can play at 10 as well. (Jean-Baptiste) Elissalde has done it in the past, (Frederic) Michalak as well. Trinh-Duc is obviously an exceptional player as well.

"I'd be surprised if they make any changes. Hopefully Yachvili will play, he's an exceptional player and we want to play against the best players,'' Jenkins added. "Whether Parra or Trinh-Duc plays at No. 10 it will be interesting, they're both exceptional players.''

Wales has played with consistency throughout the competition, and Jenkins puts that down to having to face South Africa in its opening match. The Welsh lost 17-16 but outplayed the Springboks for large parts of the game.

"I know we lost to South Africa first up but it was sort of a psychological win for us, we thought we probably should have won the game and took confidence from that,'' he said. We just built from there.''

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