Saturday, October 13, 2007

3pm tomorrow - rugby world cup semi final

from the bbc:

England v France (Sat)
Jonny Wilkinson (left) and Raphael Ibanez
Wilkinson will be key for England, while Ibanez will lead France
England v France
Saturday, 13 October
Stade de France, Paris

England will be hoping to maintain the momentum of a shock win over Australia when they meet France in Saturday's World Cup semi-final in Paris.

Brian Ashton's side played their best rugby for four years but they face a French team inspired by an equally surprise win against the All Blacks.

Both teams go into "Le Crunch" unchanged, with a final against either South Africa or Argentina beckoning.

"It will take another monster effort by England," said RFU supremo Rob Andrew.

"As they did last week, there has to be enormous togetherness, huge commitment but also a smartness in how they play."

England have slumped in the four years since beating Australia in the 2003 World Cup final, and they were given no hope last month after scraping a win against USA and losing 36-0 to South Africa in their first two poool games.

If you haven't got that will to sacrifice your body and soul for the cause, then things won't happen
England captain Phil Vickery

But their performances were more encouraging in victories over Samoa and Tonga and they overpowered the Australian scrum to win 12-10 in Marseille last Saturday.

"The most pleasing thing about England last week was that they attacked areas of Australia's game which were perceived as weaknesses and in certain areas destroyed Australia," former England fly-half Andrew told BBC Radio 5live.

"This week it's about finding those holes in the France game, if you can, and then putting them into practice on the field backed up with another performance of enormous courage and determination."

Up to 40,000 England fans are expected to descend on Paris for the match and England captain Phil Vickery said: "The circumstances have changed. Suddenly there is anticipation from outside the camp of what is going to happen.

"France are favourites, but I have got confidence in my team. It won't be easy, but if we didn't think we could win the game, we wouldn't be here.

"People are going to have to find performances within themselves they never thought they had. If you haven't got that will to sacrifice your body and soul for the cause, then things won't happen."


England field five survivors from their 2003 World Cup final team - Jonny Wilkinson, Vickery, Jason Robinson, Josh Lewsey and Ben Kay.

Ashton said: "Having players who have been there and won a World Cup final will help to set the right tone when the day comes.

"It will be a momentous occasion, but it won't be a massive surprise to half the team.

"We've been told 40,000 people are crossing the Channel this weekend. They will be buzzing around Paris - it is unbelievable.

The English have what we don't have - the World Cup trophy
France flanker Serge Betsen

"The support has been phenomenal, and it makes a massive difference. I hope as many as possible of them get tickets."

France, who lost the opening match of the tournament to Argentina en route to finishing second in their pool, came back from 13-0 down to win 20-18 against tournament favourites the All Blacks in Cardiff.

"Beating the best side in the world [NZ] was fantastic but we have to concentrate on the task ahead," said France scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.

"We'll celebrate later. We will still able to watch that match on ESPN in 30 years.

"This match will be our toughest in the entire campaign. We must believe in ourselves. At stake is a ticket to the most beautiful thing on earth."

France, the Six Nations champions, beat experimental England sides twice in the summer warm-up games, though Ashton's men recorded a 26-18 victory at Twickenham in March.

The hosts have never won the World Cup and lost the 2003 semi-final 24-7 to England in Sydney.

Flanker Serge Betsen, who was sin-binned in France's defeat four years ago, said: "I felt guilty because the team was penalised as a result of my yellow card, but I think that will spur me on.

"The English have what we don't have - the World Cup trophy."

England: Robinson; Sackey, Tait, Catt, Lewsey; Wilkinson, Gomarsall; Sheridan, Regan, Vickery (capt), Shaw, Kay, Corry, Moody, Easter.
Replacements: Chuter, Stevens, Dallaglio, Worsley, Richards, Flood, Hipkiss.

France: Traille; Clerc, Marty, Jauzion, Heymans; Beauxis, Elissalde; Milloud, Ibanez (capt), De Villiers, Pelous, Thion, Betsen, Dusautoir, Bonnaire.
Replacements: Poux, Szarzewski, Chabal, Harinordoquy, Michalak, Dominici, Poitrenaud.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

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