Fa­tigued French hope for fi­nal flare

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

BUENOS AIRES — The sum­mer may have ended in shame and dis­as­ter for France’s foot­ball team, but the coun­try’s rugby play­ers are de­ter­mined to end their sea­son on a high with a win over Ar­gentina to­day.

It has been a long sea­son for France’s top play­ers who won the Six Na­tions Grand Slam be­fore Toulouse and Bi- ar­ritz went on to bat­tle it out for the Euro­pean Cup in the fi­nal in Paris last month.

This tour has al­ready seen them suf­fer the same fate as their foot­balling cousins, de­feat at the hands of South Africa. The 42-17 de­feat in Cape Town­gaveev­i­dence of a bat­tle-weary group and it is this fa­tigue at the end of a long sea­son which is wor­ry­ing them most.

Their prepa­ra­tion has not been helped by ill­ness strik­ing the team, with fly-half David Skrela and winger Aure­lien Rougerie both ruled out of the tie af­ter com­ing down with gas­troen­teri­tis. “It is al­ways the case at the end of the sea­son. It is al­ways dif­fi­cult to find a co­he­sion. Bod­ies are tired, the play­ers are weary and that is en­tirely un­der­stand­able,” said coach Marc Lievre­mont.

The last two sea­sons show a marked con­trast in for­tunes when it comes to France’s sum­mer tours.

In 2009, France didn’t have such a great Six Na­tions, win­ning three and los­ing two of their fix­tures, and the French clubs had a rough time in the Euro­pean Cup, only Toulouse mak­ing it through to the quar­ter-fi­nals.

France fol­lowed that with a tour down un­der which saw them notch up their fourth ever vic­tory in New Zealand, stun­ning the All Blacks 27-22 in Dunedin.

Cap­tain Thierry Dusautoir, the work­horse in the back row whose bat­tery never ap­pears to fade, ad­mit­ted that the play­ers were not men­tally pre­pared for the tour

The play­ers, though, are con­scious of the re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes with the priv­i­lege of wear­ing the blue jersey and in­tend putting in one last ef­fort against an Ar­gen­tine side that has suf­fered two de­feats at the hands of Scot­land. “We took a beat­ing in South Africa. Last Fri­day we beat Ar­gentina A (37-14) with­out ever nec­es­sar­ily dom­i­nat­ing,” says prop Fa­bien Bar­cella. “It is vi­tal that we get a win onSatur­day, never mind­how we do it. With­out the vic­tory, there will be some doubt about our sea­son.”

The na­ture of the de­feat in Cape Town has seen Lievre­mont make seven changes to the side, four in the backs and three in the pack.

— Sapa-AFP.

PHOTO: GETTY

France coach Marc Lievre­mont … ‘This year, there is a lot more tired­ness and that has taken us back a bit.’

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