How typically French.

A team supposed to be in disarray and in the middle of a feud with their coach have made it to the final four of this World Cup. And the tournament will be better for it.

Throughout this World Cup we wondered if France had the ability to do what they have done in the past and find something special. They played well for a few minutes against the All Blacks but were embarrassed by Tonga and went into the match having lost their last two games.

Coach Marc Lievremont was also picking a fight with anything that moved, including his players, and the French seemed incapable of pulling it together.


It was pantomime theatre. It was typically French. The football team highlighted it beautifully with their childish behaviour at last year's football World Cup and this team carried on the tradition.

Tonight, though, they looked united. Lievremont said to them beforehand that, if nothing else, they should play for themselves and it seemed to resonate. The played with passion and purpose and found figures to follow in captain Thierry Dusautoir and No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy. The inside pairing of Dimitri Yachvili and Morgan Parra also controlled a backline who attacked with depth and pace.

But for as slick as the French were, they were made to look good by a horrible England side. They were ponderous, unimaginative, lacked direction and made unimaginable errors and it's a blessing they are out of this World Cup.

The two teams who have so far advanced to the final four at least try to play rugby and have set up an intriguing semifinal next Saturday night.

England even defended poorly, something they take pride in (they conceded only one try in pool play, a World Cup record) and slipped off simple tackles in the first half.

French wing Vincent Clerc slipped through three inadequate attempts to score the game's first try in the 22nd minute and the other wing, Alexis Palisson easily offloaded despite the attentions of three defenders to set up fullback Maxime Medard on the half hour for the second.

England needed something special to get back into the match but they don't typically do special. Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood looked like they had just met each other and only Manu Tuilagi and halfback Ben Youngs posed any real problems to a well-organised French defence.

They sniffed a chance when Ben Foden scored in the 55th minute, when he finished off a move start by a quick Youngs penalty tap. It came immediately after Yachvili had been replaced by Francois Trinh-Duc, an illustration France wanted to play a more controlled game, which was a curious substitution.


It meant a departure from what had been working for France but the English weren't good enough to take advantage and once the French could see the finish line they relied on passion to get them into their fifth successive semifinal.

Only a fool would write them off now. But it's not to say they won't unravel next week, either.

France 19 (Vincent Clerc, Maxime Medard tries; Dmitri Yachvili 2 penalties, Francois Trinh-Duc dropped goal) def. England 12 (Ben Foden, Mark Cueto tries; Jonny Wilkinson conversion). HT: 16-0.