Rugby: Ecstatic France eyes England rendezvous

PARIS - France woke up looking for the right words after their always unpredictable rugby team tamed the All Blacks to advance to the World Cup semifinals.

"Immense" screamed a headline on the front page of sports daily L'Equipe, while Le Parisien chose "Giant" and Le Journal du Dimanche "Enormous", a popular French word for anything really special.

A concert of car horns saluted the win in Paris and there were partying scenes all through the night in the French capital.

The win against the supreme entertainers in world rugby in Cardiff revived memories of another famous win over the same opponents, in the 1999 World Cup semifinals at Twickenham.

"Some matches make you feel a thousand years older, with tension added to fear," wrote L'Equipe in a front-page column.

"Other matches make you feel eight years younger, with history becoming the stuff of legends."

The newspapers immediately switched to the next step in the tournament hosts' campaign.

"Rendezvous with England on Saturday at the Stade de France," wrote Le Parisien, already looking forward to a semifinal clash against opponents France have beaten twice in warm-up matches.

The headline on an inside page of L'Equipe was fitting.

"So French", it read, which suits a team with a record of improbable achievements.

As in 1999, France moved to the brink of defeat before recovering their famous flair with perfect timing. They had made life difficult for themselves, losing to Argentina in the opening match, which is why they had to face New Zealand so early and away from home.

"A dose of typically French scepticism was needed to wake up the pride of 30 champions and rekindle the flame of passion," wrote L'Equipe.

The paper selected a picture of flanker Thierry Dusautoir, who scored his side's first try and was outstanding against the New Zealand defence.

Le Journal du Dimanche chose the image of bearded lock Sebastien Chabal planting a kiss on the shaven head of first five-eighths Frederic Michalak. Both came on in the second half to give France a new lease oflife.

French newspapers admitted the quality of the match had not been great but that the result was what mattered.

"There will certainly be prettier matches than this one," wrote L'Equipe, "but not many will be greater."

- Reuters

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