By Kate Rowan of the Telegraph
France's World Cup campaign is threatening to descend into turmoil after Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal told the players to overthrow the coaching staff and Guilhem Guirado was reportedly ousted from the captaincy by the management.
France go into Saturday's game with England having already qualified for the quarter-finals after three successive victories, but they have been underwhelming so far and only narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat by Tonga on Sunday after surviving a late comeback to win 23-21.
That has led to suggestions of unrest in the camp, with hooker Guirado reported to have lost the confidence of head coach Jacques Brunel and assistant Fabien Galthie.
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French newspaper Midi Olympique claims that Guirado will not start against England after falling out with Brunel and Galthie, with Camille Chat - who has started the past two matches against the United States and Tonga - likely to be preferred. A France training session scheduled for yesterday was cancelled at short notice.
Midi Olympique also claims that the players are fully in support of Guirado, despite Jefferson Poirot likely to be asked to lead the side against England in a game which will decide who tops Pool C.
In a further twist, Boudjellal has called on the players to "take control" against a coaching staff who he believes are setting the national side up for failure. His call comes eight years after France did exactly that in the 2011 World Cup, with coach Marc Lievremont sidelined as the team recovered from a humiliating pool-stage loss against Tonga and reached the final, losing 8-7 to New Zealand.
The national football team instigated their own civil war at the 2010 World Cup, with captain Patrice Evra leading the side in refusing to train after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for abusing coach Raymond Domenech.
Boudjellal has called for the rugby side to follow suit to prevent what he believes is an inevitable early exit."Take control guys, take the power, because there are coaches all over the place. Our team spirit is almost non-existent," Boudjellal said in a video blog.
"Individually, we have players who are world class. Collectively, for several years, that hasn't been the case.
"Since when have we been frightened against these teams [such as Tonga], who we respect, of course, but who aren't on our level? Take control guys, because it is your history, your World Cup.
"You are there for your career and for your country. You are there for French rugby and to try to go as far as possible, to see if you can win this World Cup - but we will only get there if you take control.
"Our coaches who are there, I invite you to visit Japan, go and look around, treat yourself and leave the players to tell their own stories because for years I have not understood the game plan of this France team. Something is going wrong, so it's over to you guys [the players]. Tell the coaches to go on holiday. Write your story yourself.
"There is a lot of experience, there are guys in this group who will certainly be major coaches in the future, so start to be a big coach today. Kick the coaches out, take control, tell your own story, because we are ready to follow you."
France's coaching set-up is already under scrutiny, with Galthie succeeding Brunel after the tournament. The former national captain was brought into Brunel's set-up in April after a disappointing Six Nations that included three losses and a record 44-8 defeat by England, and results have improved following his arrival.
However, performances have worsened since a fine opening 40 minutes against Argentina in round one and the team have come in for sustained criticism after the Tonga game.
Qualification for the knockout stages is secure, but defeat by England would almost certainly mean a quarter-final clash with Wales, who won 24-19 in Paris during the Six Nations.
All eyes will be on Brunel and his side as they face the media today with their tournament on the line.