Showing posts with label marc lièvremont. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marc lièvremont. Show all posts

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Can Les Bleus break the Eden Park rugby hoodoo?

Dimitri Yachvili leads a victory parade after defeating England 19-12 in the quarterfinals.

By Francois Mazet and Sylvain Mouillard

A bunch of "sans culottes'' - the French republican revolutionaries of 1792 who beheaded king Louis XVI - will replay their Valmy on Sunday against a coalition of Anglo-Saxons, led by the lords of the game, the All Blacks.

There is no argument from the French about Richie McCaw's side deserving to win the World Cup. They are the best team, play great rugby and it would be a reward for New Zealanders who have been great hosts throughout the tournament. And as rugby fans, we would be perfectly fine with the All Blacks lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy.

But competition is not about deserving to win. Why would professional sports have any morality when society does not? The only true thing is that, at the end of the day, the winner is always right.

The French might not have deserved to beat Wales last Saturday. There was nothing to be proud of. But France, in their sporting history, have suffered enough bad nights, unfair calls and stolen games to, for once, be content with victory.

The world's press could do nothing worse than labelling this French team "thieves''. Coach Marc Lièvremont will put up a handful of articles in the changing room at Eden Park on Sunday and remind his players the last team who won there had blue jerseys on. If there is one squad which can break the Eden Park hoodoo, it's Lievremont's dirty XV.

Despite having guided France to the final, Lievremont's legacy will be easy to conclude: World Cup-winning coach or absolutely nothing.

After four years in charge, the former second division coach is a long way from the promise he made when he got the job. He vowed to revitalise French pass-and-run rugby. But it's almost impossible to build an attacking team in French rugby because of the war between the clubs and the national team that sees the clubs wield power over players. It took time for Lievremont to understand this.

There were rumours of disarray in the French camp during the tournament. Far from it. It was only the result of the clash between a straightforward guy, who verbalises publicly everything that goes through his mind, and players who were, for a long time, too shy.

After several notorious losses, the latest against Tonga in pool play, it seems Les Bleus now completely assume that French flair is a myth. It was mostly the violence of Franck Tournaire and Cedric Soulette in the rucks that led to victory in 1999 and Thierry Dusautoir's 38 tackles in 2007. This French team have also decided the only important thing is winning.

The backbone of French rugby has always been the feeling of "one against all''. That is how Les Bleus beat the All Blacks in 1999 and 2007. They were scared, they ware ashamed, they were shattered and they rose from it, stuck together and reversed the course of history. Lièvremont knows that only too well - he was in the team 12 years ago.

It is probable that the torrent of harsh words from the press in New Zealand, Australia and the UK will only make the French resolve stronger.

Lacking respect for your opponent is the worst insult in rugby. France have paid for it several times, including a few weeks ago against Tonga. They would love nothing more than to prove a lot of people wrong.

Francois Mazet and Sylvain Mouillard are reporters for Liberation newspaper, RFI and RMC radios, and website.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

France shrug aside the 'Marcatraz' rugby stigma

A RARE Café Pacific switch from media and politics to rugby: France deserve the Grand Slam accolades for Marc Lièvremont and his coaching crew’s patience in rebuilding the national team with vision and confidence after their humiliation at the hands of les Rosbifs at the 2007 World Cup.

The French team has shrugged off its ‘Marcatraz’ stigma – a reference to the Marcoussis training centre outside Paris and San Francisco’s notorious ex-prison Alcatraz. This was how the centre was dubbed in the conservative coaching era of Bernard Laporte.

While France's 12-10 defeat of England in the Parisian rain at the weekend was a pale imitation of the scintillating victories over Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy in previous matches, the Grand Slam was a deserved honour for les Bleus. Bravo!

Sounding a 2011 World Cup warning to both hosts New Zealand and fellow group contender Tonga, Reuters rugby writer Jean-Paul Coret says about Lièvremont’s resolve against the insults during 2008 when the coach chopped-and-changed to blood a range of young players for the future:
The 41-year-old's tendency to tinker was castigated but Lièvremont remained firm. By the end of the season he selected 58 names.

The eventual result is a strong and competitive squad with an awesome front five and a backbone of 10 players in key positions -- front row, backrow, halfbacks, inside centre and fullback.
Stuart Barnes in the Sunday Times described how Lièvremont had gone from “villain to hero” in France, adding:
An entire nation savoured France’s first Grand Slam since 2004. It was all the more ecstatic for the choice of England as the fifth and final victims. Perfidious Albion — more than any other rugby nation — has haunted French rugby throughout the past decade. Supporters remember how a limited but bloody-minded England stole their dreams with fierce determination and Jonny Wilkinson’s boot in the semi-final of their World Cup three years ago. This was French rugby’s Agincourt moment…

French rugby understands its own market. It has reverted to tradition and is rediscovering the best route to present and future glories.
Four of Lièvremont's players – Morgan Parra, Imanol Harinordoquy, Mathieu Bastareaud and Thierry Dusautoir – have been nominated for the Six Nations' player of the year award alongside Shane Williams of Wales and Ireland's Tommy Bowe. As French captain, Dusautoir may well get the nod in recognition of a standout performance from the whole team.

Pictured: Marc Lièvremont fields the press. Photo: Planet Rugby

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