Lièvremont upbeat as he faces final countdown
AUCKLAND, 23 Oct. - Marc Lièvremont's tenure as head coach of France will come to an end on Sunday after his team play New Zealand for the Web Ellis Cup, and the parting of the ways clearly cannot come soon enough for all concerned.
Lièvremont's blunt criticism of his players has ruffled feathers in the camp while an unhappy relationship with sections of the media has deteriorated still further as Les Bleus prepare for their showdown with the All Blacks at Eden Park.
On Saturday the 42-year-old conducted his penultimate press conference in a four-year reign that has had its fair share of ups and downs. The French rugby federation has already announced Philippe Saint-André as his replacement and the next time Lièvremont faces the media he will either be a world champion or a villain in the eyes of many of his countrymen.
"I'd like it all to be over and for it to go well,'' he said on Saturday when asked for his thoughts as the moment of truth for him and his team approached.
The route France took to reach international rugby's showcase event was a bumpy one. They are the first team to lose two pool games and still qualify for the championship match, and their 9-8 semi-final win over a Wales side who played most of the match with 14 men sparked claims they were undeserving finalists.
Lièvremont ignited a firestorm when he criticised some of his team for disobeying him following last weekend's triumph over Wales, branding them "spoiled brats" after they celebrated on the town.
It was not the first time he had spoken out against his players in New Zealand and it prompted senior squad members to respond angrily with criticism of their own.
Calm was restored by midweek as the team adopted an us-against-the-world mentality and Lièvremont was soon insisting France's World Cup destiny was in the hands of his players.
"It is like this for all matches. We had our last training session yesterday and we had our last video session this morning and we have the captain's run later. Now I really have to hand things over to the captain and the players and it is up to them,'' he said on Saturday.
"Things are going well, thanks," he added when asked how his last week in the job was going. "There are certainly worse things in life. At the moment I am feeling relaxed and I am feeling concentrated and focused and I am really hoping to appreciate this moment.
"All the moments this week have been last moments for me. We had the last moments with the staff, the last training session, the last video sessions and this is the last press conference. It will be trying to leave you behind."
While that last comment was a sarcastic barb in the direction of his tormentors among the media, Lièvremont is well aware that the outcome of Sunday's match will define how his time as coach is remembered.
Asked what he expects to be doing on Monday, he did not miss a beat before giving his response.
"To wake up hung over."
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