/ Rugby

Lievremont defiant despite poor performance

Updated: Saturday, 15 Oct 2011 23:06

Marc Lievremont believes the French team French team might have a guardian angel after reaching the final
Marc Lievremont believes the French team French team might have a guardian angel after reaching the final

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France coach Marc Lievremont was unapologetic after France squeezed into their third World Cup final on the back of a lacklustre 9-8 win over 14-man Wales at Eden Park here on Saturday.

"I don't care at all whether it was a good match or not, whether the Welsh deserve to be in the final, we have qualified for the final and that's all that counts," a defiant Lievremont said.

Three penalties from fly-half Morgan Parra were enough to outscore Wales, who still managed the only try of the semi-final after their captain, Sam Warburton, was shown a red card with more than an hour left.

"We didn't start the match very well, so we lost our confidence and very quickly we started to play with 15 against 14 and we remained very inhibited," Lievremont said.

"However, we have won and that's the only thing that counts for me."

France have never lifted the World Cup and no side has done so after losing a pool match.

Yet the French, beaten finalists in 1987 and 1999, are through to the climax of this edition after group defeats by New Zealand and, remarkably, Tonga somehow paved the way for a quarter-final revival against Six Nations champions England.

"Four months ago we had quite a lot of injured players and yet they have all played and we are now in the final, so I'm not going to brood or be unhappy just because the match was not the best match of all," Lievremont said.

Lievremont praised a battling Wales, whose scrum-half Mike Phillips scored a superb solo try with 20 minutes left only for the conversion, by replacement fly-half Stephen Jones, that would have given the Welsh the lead to hit the post.

Wales pounded away through 27 phases in the closing stages to set up a drop-goal attempt but the French rearguard kept them out of range.

"I think we have to pay tribute to the Welsh team that played virtually all the match with 14 men against 15," Lievremont said.

"They have been amazingly brave but the French team might have a guardian angel," added the former back-row forward, a member of the France side that lost the 1999 World Cup final to Australia.

"I'm not really superstitious but we have had a very narrow escape, we're still here, we are in the final, we have not played the best and most spectacular rugby, but we're here.

"So we have to believe in ourselves, we have to believe in the fate of this team and they are going to prepare for the final and try to enjoy it as much as possible.

"We know we are extremely privileged and, of course, we want to play to win."

Lievremont backed Blackrock referee Alain Rolland's match-turning decision to give Warburton a straight red card in the 19th minute for a tackle on Vincent Clerc that saw the France wing hit the turf head-first.

"We have seen the tackle and it was a very dangerous tackle and it deserved a red card," he said.

Lievremont added it was his "wildest dream" before the tournament for France to face the All Blacks, who play Australia in Sunday's second semi-final, in the trophy match at Eden Park on 23 October.

France, easily beaten 37-17 by the All Blacks in their pool fixture, dramatically defeated New Zealand in the quarter-finals of the last World Cup.

"Sunday is going to be a tremendous match and in our wildest dreams we've always imagined playing against New Zealand," Lievremont said.

"I have, as have most of our players, always liked the All Blacks and I will always be supportive of the All Blacks, unless we have to play them next week."

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