France look­ing to build on im­prove­ment against Wallabies

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

A lit­tle dose of French flair, but not too much. As they pre­pare to take on World Cup run­nerup Aus­tralia in their sec­ond test match this au­tumn, French play­ers would rather bet on dis­ci­pline and strong de­fend­ing. The good news for the French is that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has de­cided to rest sev­eral star play­ers at the Stade de France, in­clud­ing Is­rael Fo­lau, Michael Hooper and Dane Haylett-Petty. Tomorrow’s game is not part of the Wallabies’ grand slam at­tempt and Cheika will give some play­ing time to sub­sti­tutes, as well as hand­ing cen­ter Kyle God­win a long-awaited de­but. Still, Aus­tralia re­mains a for­mi­da­ble team that the French look up to. “Against Samoa, we de­fended maybe six min­utes. Against Aus­tralia, we will de­fend 15 min­utes,” said lock Yoann Maestri, who will start along­side Se­bastien Va­haamahina. “Good de­fend­ing re­quires en­ergy, lots of en­ergy, and more dis­ci­pline. And the more you de­fend, the more you are at risk of mak­ing fouls.” France has steadily im­proved since coach Guy Noves took over in the wake of last year’s World Cup. Al­though the French failed to im­press in the Six Na­tions, they came back from a two-test se­ries in Ar­gentina this sum­mer with their con­fi­dence boosted by a 27-0 thrash­ing of the Pu­mas. They fol­lowed up on that last week­end with an im­pres­sive 52-8 win over Samoa. Against the Wallabies, Noves does not ex­pect the same at­tack­ing bonanza. He in­sists de­fense will be key, but will also be count­ing on the cre­ativ­ity of Wesley Fo­fana and the ex­plo­sive style of wingers Vir­imi Vakatawa and Noa Nakaitaci to un­set­tle the Wallabies. “They are among the three best na­tions,” Noves said. “They posed a lot of prob­lems to New Zealand re­cently, and they are well po­si­tioned for the grand slam. So we will only try to play our game and give our best.” Aus­tralia is mid­way through its aim of achiev­ing a first grand slam of the home unions since 1984 fol­low­ing wins over Wales and Scot­land. The World Cup fi­nal­ists are hope­ful the work they did to im­prove their scrum will pay off against the French. “Their men­tal­ity is a bit dif­fer­ent to what the south­ern hemi­sphere teams do and what we’re used to,” said prop Sekope Kepu, who played with French club Bordeaux last sea­son but will sit out the test. “The big­gest thing is they love scrum­mag­ing. It’s some­thing they take pride in and it’s some­thing we’ve built over the last year or two as the Wallabies and Aus­tralian front row. It’s a mas­sive chal­lenge and we’re def­i­nitely look­ing for­ward to it.” Here’s a look at the other game tomorrow:

ITALY vs. SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa needs a win. Italy needs to earn some re­spect. The Spring­boks and the Az­zurri have vastly dif­fer­ent goals en­ter­ing their test match in Florence tomorrow. Fourth-ranked South Africa has lost five of its last six games, most re­cently beaten 37-21 by Eng­land last week­end. Italy is com­ing off a hu­mil­i­at­ing 68-10 rout by New Zealand. Italy has lost all 12 of the pre­vi­ous matches it has played against South Africa. “The chal­lenges and the goals are clearly dif­fer­ent for us and South Africa,” Italy coach Conor O’Shea said. “I and the en­tire team have to fo­cus on our­selves and the long road that awaits us.”

France will have to de­fend well if they stand a chance of win­ning against Aus­tralia Photo: AP

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