France hope to banish Tonga embarrassment

Vincent Clerc
Vincent Clerc
France are more concerned about erasing the memory of their loss to Tonga last week than taking revenge for successive World Cup semi-final defeats when they meet England on Saturday, winger Vincent Clerc says.

The French have been talking all week about the torment of losing their final pool match to the Pacific islanders and are determined to give a better account of themselves against their European rivals in the quarter-final clash at Eden Park.

"We have a great deal of revenge to get," the livewire winger told reporters at the team hotel.

"First, with regards to last week. Considering the work we've put in for three-and-a-half months, what we showed last week doesn't reflect what we are worth.

"Secondly, with regards to the England squad, it's not really revenge as such because the teams and the context are different."

Clerc, who has scored 30 tries in 54 tests, said the morale in the camp was good despite the widely reported divisions but that anybody who expected a sudden explosion of French flair might be disappointed.

"We won't necessarily achieve extraordinary things. We will have to focus on the basics and get them right," the 30-year-old said.

"We went through tough times, but we're still here."

Flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson was instrumental in England's victories over France at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups and loose forward Julien Bonnaire said he would be coming in for some close attention.

"He, as well as the others, is not as good under pressure," he said. "It's down to us to show more aggressiveness so that he doesn't put his team forward. Having said that, generally speaking, the English are always good against us."

Hooker William Servat was not expecting the match, which will decide which team goes on to play Ireland or Wales in the semi-finals, to be a classic.

"I don't think it'll be an awesome game, but it will be a tough battle," he said.

The 33-year-old also appealed for some perspective about the defeat to Tonga.

"It is not easy to justify ourselves when we failed to win," he said. "As for me, yes, I got it wrong in my own commitment. Now, having said that, a lot of people make mistakes in their life choices and it is far more serious.

"We made a mistake as sportsmen, but it remains a sport. A beautiful one."

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