Wales v France, Rugby World Cup, October 15, 2011
Lievremont justifies Parra switch
October 12, 2011
Morgan Parra's switch to fly-half provoked outcry in France © Getty Images
French coach Marc Lievremont has admitted Francois Trinh-Duc's poor form forced him into the much talked about tactical re-shuffle.
Lievremont opted for Morgan Parra in the half-back role alongside Dimitri Yachvili, despite his lack of game-time in the number ten shirt, against the All Blacks in their Pool A clash and the French coach, who is no stranger to making controversial selection decisions, admits it was an option he never doubted.
The French coach said: "From the moment I realised that François Trinh Duc wasn't at his best level and that he seemed to doubt himself, and that David Skrela was forced to withdraw due to injury, the choice of naming Morgan at 10 became obvious."
The coach was also not deterred by stories coming out of the All Blacks camp that some of their players - most notably Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams - were relishing the prospect of coming up against the 80kg Parra.
"I heard all sorts of things at that time," Lièvremont said. "What makes me laugh was that, if anything, it was from an attacking point of view that I could have had doubts. From the defence side of things, I never worried for Morgan. He is a great defender in the one-on-one contests, maybe better than François (Trinh Duc) whose qualities are rightly praised in that area. He is brave and never escapes from confrontations."
Lièvremont agrees that there are valid comparisons between Parra and Christophe Deylaud, the diminutive fly half who played for France in the early to mid 1990s. "Yes, there is a little of that in him. Like Christophe, all is happening up here," he added. "He absorbs the game systems very quickly. He is always in demand for something, asks questions and wants to understand everything. It's a guy who, at 22, is already a coach at Fédérale 2 [French 4th division] level. And that is not a common thing."
Meanwhile, French winger Vincent Clerc has admitted he will draw on his semi-final heartbreak of 2007 ahead of Saturday's semi-final with Wales. Clerc said: "There is a huge amount of pressure in the knockout games.
"We know what it is like to be knocked out, and it made it all the more disappointing that we were eliminated in France last time. People will understand how motivated I am. As a squad we are very motivated. We know this could be the end for us, so it is an important moment. We have been given an opportunity, and we need to make the most of it."
France scrum-half Yachvili, who has been troubled by a thigh injury, has no doubt about his fitness for the Eden Park clash, and he supports Clerc's theory that Wales will be dangerous opponents. "We have beaten Wales three times in the last three years, but we also know they have improved, especially with so many young players in their team.
"Wales are a team that uses space on the field, and their defence is immense. I think they have been under-estimated. In your professional career, a World Cup semi-final is an exceptional moment, and we are going to have to go after Wales and exert a lot of pressure."
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