Mas, Harinordoquy back for France in quarterfinals
Updated: October 04, 2011, 00:11
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Marc Lievremont will be counting on veteran forwards Imanol Harinordoquy and Nicolas Mas to toughen up his French pack when it plays against England in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarterfinals.
The France coach also hopes their presence will inspire the others to snap out of a kind of lethargy that has plagued France throughout the tournament.
Two-time finalist France has lost its last two matches, to New Zealand and Tonga, and confidence is running low against a backdrop of outbursts from Lievremont over the lack of commitment shown by his players.
"We have to tell ourselves we have nothing to lose. We haven't been brilliant in the first few games,'' Lievremont said Tuesday. "I still believe in my team and in its ability to bounce back and show some pride.''
He dreads what will happen if France doesn't lift its game against its archrival at Eden Park.
"If we don't have the right attitude this week and Saturday, we'll go back home to France and won't have deserved to go further,'' Lievremont said when announcing his team on Tuesday. "We're already on a suspended sentence in a way, because of this lucky qualification on the back of a defeat.''
Mas returns to beef up the front row and Harinordoquy is at No. 8 because Lievremont had to find a spot for him in the backrow.
"We can see there's a bit of fragility within the team and (Imanol's) experience will help us go forward, especially in a match with so much at stake and against an opponent he knows well,'' Lievremont said. "We know that he likes to play against England, we're waiting for him to show his experience.''
Harinordoquy was on the losing team against England in the 2003 and '07 semifinals.
"I've had enough of that,'' Harinordoquy said.
Lievremont is backing Mas to overcome his lack of match sharpness.
"Medically speaking, Nicolas is fine,'' he said. "He hasn't taken part in a scrum or tackled for three weeks, but I'm counting on his experience.''
France was the first of the eight teams to announce its quarterfinal squad.
Lievremont made the two changes to his forward pack but retained the same backline which started in last weekend's shocking 19-14 loss to Tonga, meaning Morgan Parra remains as a makeshift flyhalf with Francois Trinh-Duc on the bench.
Mas missed the Tonga match due to a hamstring strain but has been recalled in favor of prop Luc Ducalcon, while Harinordoquy was promoted from the bench to replace Raphael Lakafia.
"I'm fine now, I was scared of returning to France, but the injury's healed well,'' Mas said. "Of course I will be lacking in rhythm, but given the context of the match you have to overlook that and rise above it.''
Ducalcon and Lakafia were not included in the 22-man match squad. David Marty returns to the reserve bench to replace center Fabrice Estebanez, who was banned for three weeks by judicial panel on Monday for a dangerous tackle in the match against Tonga.
"He absolutely did not want to hurt his opponent. There's also a bit of frustration about this punishment,'' Lievremont said. "A feeling of (anger) as well with regards to a judge who does his job, and says with a big smile: 'I was lenient, because I wanted to give him six matches and only gave him three.'''
France has been in disarray amid regular reports of tension between Lievremont and his players, and only just managed to scrape into the knockout rounds with wins over Japan and Canada before a loss to top-ranked New Zealand and shocking defeat to Tonga to finish second in Pool A.
"After the Tonga match there were two options: either move onto England or go back over the Tonga game with the video. They spent the longest time I've ever known them with the video in the four years we've been together,'' Lievremont said. "Self-criticism is another thing altogether, and I'm happy to hear that they've done that.''
Lievremont has been uncertain over team selection, with Parra playing at No. 10 despite limited test experience in that position, and changing his No. 8 three times in five matches.
"I was quite frustrated to be a reserve,'' Harinordoquy said. "We have to stop asking questions of ourselves now and go for it because the French team plays well when it stops asking questions.''
France relinquished its Six Nations title this year, losing 17-9 to England at Twickenham only 12 months after a two-point win over the English enroute to a Grand Slam.
England has won four of the last five head-to-head encounters.
"I don't want it to happen again,'' Harinordoquy said. "We're all aware of how we played (against Tonga) and know we can do better.''
England coach Martin Johnson has spoken of being wary of an inconsistent France side, saying the French are never more dangerous than when it is "flying under the radar.''
"Every player has been at 50 percent of their potential up until now,'' Harinordoquy said.
France has concerns over the fitness of center Aurelien Rougerie (right shoulder) and flanker Thierry Dusautoir (bruising to his left shoulder), although both are in the team.
"Thierry won't train this afternoon, but will return to training this week,'' Lievremont said. "The doctor assures me (Rougerie) will be ready. If that's not the case on Thursday or Friday we will find a solution''.
Squad: Maxime Medard, Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Maxime Mermoz, Alexis Palisson, Morgan Parra, Dimitri Yachvili; Imanol Harinordoquy, Julien Bonnaire, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Lionel Nallet, Pascal Pape, Nicolas Mas, William Servat, Jean-Baptiste Poux. Reserves: Dimitri Szarzewski, Fabien Barcella, Julien Pierre, Louis Picamoles, Francois Trinh-Duc, David Marty, Cedric Heymans.