Laporte blames schedule for injury crisis
February 29, 2000

The present injury crisis that has hit the French rugby team is due to an overloaded rugby calendar, head coach Bernard Laporte claimed Tuesday.

As the French prepare to face Scotland for their Six Nations clash at Murrayfield on Saturday, Laporte fears that as many as nine starters could be missing due to various injuries.

And he blames an overcrowded and unrealistic European rugby schedule for the rash of injuries which have deprived the team of several key players in the past two weeks.

"After the World Cup final on November 6, the Australians had the benefit of three months off before resuming competition last week with the Super 12. The French didn't stop," he said.

Since surprising the rugby world by defeating New Zealand to reach the World Cup final last year, most of France's top players have been subjected to a gruelling schedule of European Cup matches, French league matches as well as the grind of the current Six Nations campaign.

In addition as having to recover from the psycological damage of a 15-9 home loss to England earlier this month, the French side have been crippled physically as well as they prepare to take on the Scots.

Already without seven starters including World Cup heros Christophe Lamaison and Abdelatif Benazzi, the French crisis worsened Tuesday when two other key players, skipper Fabien Pelous and flanker Olivier Magne, were forced out of the team's training session because of injury.

Pelous was forced to leave the pitch complaining of a stiff back while Magne could not continue after suffering muscle pains in his right leg.

The English have also suffered as a result of the punishing schedule and have been without winger Dan Luger and second row forwards Martin Johnson and Danny Grewcock since the start of the tournament.

French rugby legend Serge Blanco, president of the French National Rugby League, last week called for a three month mid-season break without competition similar to that allowed in southern hemisphere countries.

The notion was backed by former French head coach Jean-Claude Skrela who said the break was necessary to avoid serious injuries.

By the time the season ends on July 15, many international players will have been playing consecutively for eleven months.

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