France’s year thus far has not been outstanding. Second in the six nations, with a humiliating loss to Italy (in their only victory of the tournament) as well as to England, France have won both of their pre-world cup warm up matches but against unthreatening opposition from a disorganized Ireland. A try scoring record of 13 in 7 matches against all opposition will be less than the French rugby public will feel they can expect.
This lack of creativity is not explained by their squad. France are traditionally strong scrummagers and their forward pack has plenty of experience, although the health of first choice hooker William Servat is in question as he has not played since the end of the Top 14 season. Captain Thierry Dusatoir is one of the outstanding loose forwards of the game, and there are some young back row up and comers in Raphael Lakafia and the excellently named Fulgence Ouedraogo.
In the backs, Dmitri Yachvili and Morgan Parra are both superb half backs and are the first choice goal kickers of the team, while Francois Trinh-Duc and David Skrela offer yet another youth vs experience, running vs kicking set of options for coach Lievremont. France also have good options in the centres, with injury-prone Maxime Mermoz influential against Ireland, Aurelian Rougerie offering pace and power, and David Marty experience as part of the 2007 world cup side who made it as far as the semi finals (on the way knocking out France’s pool rivals this time around, New Zealand). The versatile Damien Traille is also an option at 12 or fullback. France have plenty of pace and guile out wide, completing a well rounded squad.
France have been handed the booby prize of a group featuring hosts and perennial world cup favourites New Zealand. If they were to finish second to the All Blacks in the group it would likely lead to a tough quarter final against England; thus, the clash of the two sides on September 24th at Eden Park is shaping up as a crucial match. The rest of group A should not trouble France; but then again, nor should Italy have in March.
Props: Nicolas Mas, Fabien Barcella, Jean-Baptiste Poux, Luc Ducalon
Hookers: Dimitri Szarzewski, William Servat, Guilhelm Guirado
Locks: Pascal Pape, Lionel Nallet, Julien Pierre, Romain Millo-Chluski
Flankers: Thierry Dusatoir (C), Louis Picamoles, Fulgence Ouedraogo
No. 8s: Imanol Harinordoquy, Julien Bonnaire, Raphael Lakafia
Halfbacks: Morgan Parra, Dmitri Yachvili
Flyhalves: François Trinh-Duc, David Skrela
Centres: Maxime Mermoz, Aurelien Rougerie, David Marty, Fabrice Estebanez
Outside backs: Cedric Heymans, Damien Traille, Maxime Medard, Alexis Palisson, Vincent Clerc
2011 results (most recent first): W, W, W, L, L, W, W. 6 Nations runners-up.
Tries in 2011: 10 tries in 5 matches in the 6 Nations. 3 tries in 2 Rugby World Cup warm up matches.
Main goal kickers: Yachvili, Parra.