France v Australia
Lievremont backs underperforming Skrela
November 22, 2008
Marc Livremont is standing by his fly-half David Skrela © Getty Images
France head coach Marc Lievremont defended David Skrela after the fly-half's kicking horror show gifted Australia victory in Paris tonight. Skrela landed just one of his six penalties, and also missed a sitter of a drop-goal in front of the posts.
The Wallabies made hay by scoring opportunistic tries through Stephen Moore and Peter Hynes to complete an 18-13 win in the French capital. Lievremont refused to criticise Skrela, who was jeered by his own supporters for his kicking foibles before seeing his night go from bad to worse with a late yellow card for a high tackle on Digby Ioane.
"Clearly, we put a helping hand around him," said Lievremont. "Apart from his kicking, he played a great match and we all know he is usually a great kicker. The idea is more to comfort him than to blame him. Sometimes this is what happens in rugby. It is part of the game but we had the ability to win this match. It hurts but it's like that."
France found themselves 10-0 down after 32 minutes, through Moore's converted try and a Giteau penalty, even though the Wallabies never reached the heights of last weekend when they defeated England 28-14 at Twickenham. However, Les Bleus were granted a penalty try on the stroke of half-time that Skrela converted, and his penalty and a Maxime Medard drop-goal put the hosts in front with 28 minutes left.
Australia hit back with Hynes' try and with Skrela keeping on missing, the French were unable to recover. Lievremont admitted it was an opportunity lost, adding: "We could have taken that match but we didn't and there is an enormous frustration.
"We had the chance to seal that game when leading 13-10 but we made a few mistakes. Against teams like Australia, you don't get 10 chances, you get three or four. We are able to compete against the biggest teams in the world but we can't express ourselves. We haven't got a match next week so we will have to wait two more months now."
While France will kick their heels in anticipation of the 2009 Six Nations Championship, which begins in February, Australia continue their European tour with a clash against Wales in Cardiff next weekend. They may need to raise their level against the Welsh if they are to keep their winning streak going, although coach Robbie Deans was satisfied with what he saw at the Stade de France.
"You have to score tries to win Test rugby, and we were able to do that. That was the difference in the end," said the Kiwi, whose team beat Italy prior to the England win. "We were very keen to stop fluctuating with our performances and tonight presented us with our last opportunity to do that. I believe we achieved it. It was tough and it was not straightforward. And you could say the missed kicks had an impact.
"But I'd suggest if you look at the game, we had good composure and field position and I personally believe the outcome was just."