France looking for fast track to Dublin
October 15, 1999
France are hoping that their World Cup, and their year, can get a kick start in Toulouse on Saturday as they aim to beet Fiji and secure a quarter final place.
The French have had a difficult time since finishing bottom of the Five nations Championship and suffering defeats by New Zealand and Tonga in the summer.
They have also been less than impressive against Namibia and Canada in their previous pool games and have come under some fierce public criticism from the management and supporters.
However the side are anxious to win against the Fijians and take a direct route to the quarter final in Dublin rather than a play off against England at Twickenham.
Second Row Abdel Benazzi looks back at the last world Cup and believes this side can emulate the route taken by the French in South Africa. "Before playing Scotland in the first round of the 1995 World Cup we had two poor matches. But beating the Scots made us realise the importance of the event. After that it was easy to dump Ireland in the quarter-finals and we came very close to winning against the South Africans, I think it can be the same on Saturday.''
When the French were jeered by their own fans last weekend when they struggled to get going against the Namibians in Bordeaux, the Fijians were cheered by the crowd in their 38-22 beating of Canada.
Their backs, all brought up on a diet of sevens have been magnificent throughout the tournament, but their forwards are showing a discipline not seen in the past.
"We know their three-quarters are very fast when handling the ball, but they have improved a lot in their defending as well," said French coach Jean-Claude Skrela. "They are more disciplined and they don't play in the same childish way anymore."
Manager Jo Maso emphasised the need for the French to overcome the South pacific side, "A victory on Saturday would open a freeway to Dublin in front of us," said Maso. "But a defeat would mean entering a tricky road with several cliffs which we could fall down."