Gregor Paul on rugby

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: French B team? Far from it

64 comments
Marc Lievremont. Photo / Getty Images
Marc Lievremont. Photo / Getty Images

Apparently France coach Marc Lievremont has lost the plot because after four years of experimentation he still doesn't know his best team. Mad man that he is - he's selected Morgan Parra to play at first five. Imagine that...a coach reaching a World Cup and mucking about with his selections.

How very French. How very rude and disrespectful to the IRB. Oh what bollocks. Look at the team the French are likely to play. On the wing for the All Blacks will be a centre. Having spent four years of experimentation and claiming only four weeks ago they had nine players challenging for positions in the back three - the All Blacks have ended up having to use Richard Kahui on the wing. They may opt to use regular fullback Isaia Toeava on the other flank.

The All Blacks still don't know their best halfback either and tomorrow it is possible regular blindside Adam Thomson will be selected at No 8.

If Lievremont is mad on the basis he's uncertain and prone to radical thinking, he's sane in comparison to the All Black coaches of this and the last three campaigns.

The All Blacks had no idea of their best team in 2007 and incredibly ended up playing a fullback at centre for the third consecutive tournament. In 2003 then coach John Mitchell lost faith in Ma'a Nonu after all of six minutes and ended up playing Leon MacDonald - a regular fullback - at centre.

In 1999 it was Christian Cullen forced into the No 13 jersey. Lievremont is an easier target because he's temperamental - comes across as moody and erratic. He's openly critical about his players and provides glorious one-liners. He's easily labelled volatile so his selections can be picked apart and blamed on his unstable state of mind.

But if we want crazy - it's the All Blacks who are a better fit. Far from bemused yesterday, the French media were delighted by the selection of Parra at first five.

Parra began his professional career in the No 10 jersey and there have been murmurings for some time that he should be shifted to give the French a better play-maker. Parra is terrific goal-kicker and a sweet distributor.

Francois Trinh-Duc has been poor in his outings so far and Lievremont has decided his side needs more direction. It's a risk to play Parra there but a legitimate one - he will give them something Trinh-Duc can't.

This isn't a defeatist ploy; it's a selection that gives the French unpredictability - something they have been missing - and a player who could bring them to life.

To suggest the French have already conceded defeat and are eyeing the side of the draw that contains a likely heavy northern influence is lunacy.

If the French were to top Pool A they would most likely play either Scotland or Argentina. Despite their difficulties against the Pumas at the last World Cup, the French would rather face them or the Scots than the English.

France don't have a great track record against the English at World Cups - having lost to them in the 1991 quarter-final and 2003 and 2007 semi-finals.

To believe the 'Six Nations' side of the draw is the easier route is nonsense - southern hemisphere arrogance at its worst. Ireland have already shredded the Wallabies and Wales will wonder how on earth it was they didn't put the Springboks away.

France are coming to Eden Park to win. Lievremont isn't mad and Parra will probably be an inspired selection.

- Herald on Sunday

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 19 Sep 2014 05:23:30 Processing Time: 242ms