Trusty Poirot in right state of mind to tackle Wales

Rugby News Service analysts select key performers to watch out for in this weekend's quarter-finals. The latest is France loosehead prop Jefferson Poirot.

TOKYO, 18 Oct - When faced with a marauding ball runner who must be taken to ground, Jefferson Poirot is one of the most reliable front rows in the game - and the French loose-head prop knows he will need to be at his hard-hitting best on Sunday to blunt the threat of Josh Adams and his Wales team-mates.

France had the indignity of losing a 16-0 lead in their 24-19 defeat by Wales at Stade de France in this year's Six Nations, with George North scoring two tries. Deep down Poirot, pictured, will be among the many French players hankering for revenge this weekend.

To have a chance of winning, France's disruptive defence will need to be firing on all cylinders and Poirot, one of the most impressive front-row players during the group stages, will be integral to that effort.

Along with Guilhem Guirado and Rabah Slimani, he is a key link in one of world rugby's most stable front-row trios over the past few years. Only Ireland's formidably experienced front row have played together more times since the last World Cup.

Poirot is a thoughtful character who has admitted to using hypnosis techniques, including audio recordings of scrums, to help him get in the right mindset for big matches. The 26-year-old has some of the most impressive stats of any loose-head so far at Rugby World Cup 2019.

Having made 23 tackles in the 155 minutes he has spent on the field in Japan, Poirot was highly effective in Pool C and, remarkably, he is yet to miss a single one. So far at RWC 2019, no other player with 23 or more tackles has a 100 per cent record.

Over the past four years Poirot has credited the detailed mental preparation he has put in with Bordeaux-Begles mind coach Gershon Pinon as being crucial to ramping up his game, both in defence and attack.

"You either believe in it or you don't and I believe in it a lot," said Poirot. "It is organised thematically as I prepare for scrums, my role in attack, my play without the ball and my defence. The session is the same whether I'm with my mental coach or on my own. When I am on my own I can visualise my opponents and the stadium."

While Poirot is renowned for his defensive skills, his attention to detail appears to be paying dividends in his revitalised attacking play.

With 17 carries to complement his 23 tackles, he ranked with Japan's Keita Inagaki and Argentina's Tetaz Chaparro as an all-round loose-head during the pool stage, and his carries per minute are the best of any loose-head in the tournament who has played at least half his team's minutes.

Poirot also scored his first international try when he touched down against USA in France's second match (above) and Wales will be wary of his attacking threat as much as his ability to disrupt their own play.

Since his international debut in 2016, however, Wales have been one of Poirot's bogey teams. Along with South Africa, they are the only side in world rugby that Poirot has played at least three times without a victory. If he can buck that trend on Sunday, it will be another special World Cup moment for Les Bleus.

RNS dc/djk/ajr/bo