Wales v France, Rugby World Cup, October 15
Lievremont: Wales stronger with Hook
October 14, 2011
Marc Lievremont believes James Hook at ten for Wales could be bad news for France © Getty Images
France head coach Marc Lievremont believes that the unavailability of Rhys Priestland for Saturday's World Cup semi-final clash in Auckland is actually a positive for Wales and a blow for Les Bleus.
Priestland has drawn many plaudits for his performances in New Zealand to date and the news that the 24-year-old fly-half will miss this weekend's game with a shoulder problem was greeted with dismay by Welsh supporters.
However, Lievremont feels that with the versatile, 57-Test-cap veteran James Hook at No.10, Wales now carry a greater attacking threat.
"I would say it's not very good news for us," the France boss said of Warren Gatland's injury-enforced change of playmaker.
"Priestland's an excellent player, but James Hook is obviously a very experienced player, a player I like a lot. In my opinion, Wales will be stronger with him than without him."
Indeed, Lievremont revealed that France had been intent on targeting Priestland, who has just nine previous Test appearances to his name. Now, though, with Hook in at fly-half, his plans have been scuppered.
"I find him (Hook) to be a more complete player, more experienced," he said. "They are a very game, young team that has no complex. Experience counts for a lot at this level, and we'd also identified a few weak points in this young player (Priestland)."
Meanwhile, France captain Thierry Dusautoir is looking forward to pitting his wits against his Welsh counterpart Sam Warburton, who has established himself as one of the finest opensides in the world with a string of dynamic displays.
"Warburton is an excellent player who has managed to impose himself in that team," Dusautoir said. "I think he will play at a high level for a long time to come."
Dusautoir is also extremely wary of the threat posed by the Welsh side as a whole - in spite of the fact that France have won six of the past seven meetings between the two.
"They've been playing quality rugby for a few years now, they have great enthusiasm in their game," he said. "From what we've seen at the World Cup they play magnificent rugby. I thought the two strongest teams in the competition were South Africa and Wales, so I'm not surprised to see them here."
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