Lièvremont sticks with winning formula
AUCKLAND, 19 Oct. - France coach Marc Lièvremont has decided to stick rather than twist when it comes to picking his starting line-up for the Rugby World Cup Final against New Zealand at Eden Park on Sunday.
Lièvremont has selected the same XV that beat England in the quarter-finals and Wales in the semi-finals, but this time they will be in all-white rather than all-blue after team manager Jo Maso agreed to let the pre-match favourites wear their first-choice colours.
"We are in the final match and every time we play them it is the same thing," Lièvremont said. "They are always the favourites. I believe in my team and I believe they can win.
"Fifteen men in white will come on the field and 15 men in black will come on the field and the best team will win."
Flanker Thierry Dusautoir will captain France for the 26th time and once again will be joined in the back row by his trusted lieutenants Julien Bonnaire and Imanol Harinordoquy.
The pair have shown their importance in recent weeks. First Harinordoquy won man of the match against England, then a week later versus Wales it was Bonnaire's turn to pick up the award.
France came under fire for their conservative game plan against Wales, who were reduced to 14 men after captain Sam Warburton was sent off midway through the first half. Despite the tactics bringing success, France were criticised for kicking for territory and then forcing penalties that they converted.
"What we need to do now is focus on our solidarity and our aggression," Lièvremont said. "If we have to win this match as we played against Wales, then we will do so."
Even so, Lièvremont admitted that France could not get away with a performance similar to the one against Wales. "No, I do not think so," he said when asked if he could play the same way two weeks running.
Morgan Parra will continue as fly half. The Clermont Auvergne player will once again line up alongside scrum half Dimitri Yachvili, with one of the left-footed pair taking the kicks at goal.
It is likely to mean that both France and the All Blacks will have a relatively inexperienced player in the No.10 shirt.
For Parra it will be only his fifth start at fly half, whilst his likely opposite number Aaron Cruden was a late call-up to replace the injured Dan Carter and the final will be only his ninth Test.
"It is not an easy job to replace Dan Carter," Lièvremont said.
"He (Cruden) was also helped by the team and by a great performance. You can draw comparisons between him and our No.10, Parra."
For France the match represents a chance to make amends for losing in the 1987 and 1999 finals. On both occasions they had run out of energy after pulsating semi-finals against Australia in 1987 and New Zealand in 1999.
Lièvremont started at flanker in both the 1999 semi-final and final and knows from bitter experience the pain of defeat.
"It is very difficult to compare the two roles," Lièvremont said. "But often what it comes down to is the small details.
"I think my first words for the players when we came to the World Cup was that everything counts, both mentally and physically, and we need to be able to do everything in our power to win this match."
- South Africa
- New Zealand