Report Card: The Pink Panther Departs [France]

A question of what might have been for the French, but over what period of time? To lose a final against the host nation and outplay them over the course of the 80 minutes suggests that France almost got things right. As Greavsie used say, “It’s a funny old game”.

Was Lievremont’s tenure a failure or was he simply an emblem of French rugby? France appeared to enter the World Cup in good form, comfortably beating Ireland in Lansdowne Road, if a touch unsure of their first fifteen. They started well against Japan, had a little wobble, then went out to the front garden and started throwing crockery at each other. It never got much better until the final. The loss to Tonga was abject, the victory against England seemed to come as a surprise to France and the Warburton red card was pivotal in the semi-final win against Wales.

And yet, they could have won the final. This was France’s third final. The previous two had both been non-events for the French, coming on the back of epic semi-final wins. That suggests that France ‘always have a game in them’ but can’t do it on consecutive weekends, which seems to be the crux of the issue. The mental preparation of teams looks to be something that will gain more attention in four years’ time. Bob Casey mentioned the lack of a psychologist in an article reviewing Ireland’s World Cup and coaches will look for any edge when the knock out rounds come. However, France would have needed more than one psychologist to deal with all their issues.

The performances of Dusautoir and Harinordoquy in the final were stunning, with or without the help of a psychologist. It is rare that an athlete can produce their best performance on the biggest stage. To have two of them play so well was almost enough to win the tournament. Trinh-Duc came off the bench and, rather than be cowed by the lack of confidence shown in him by his coach, looked to show the world what he could do.

But, had Canada not beaten Tonga, France would have out in the group stages. If the French were doing just enough to get through each round, it was a tactic fraught with risk.

The tournament raised more questions than it answered about France. Are French players precious? Do they need their backs to the wall? What is their best team? Are they capable of playing without drama and do we want them to? Can France maintain a standard good enough to win three big test matches back to back? If not, why not?

The Mole does not have the answers to these questions and doubts if Philip Saint Andre will either. What did work for France was selecting the same team on a consistent basis and devolving power to the players, even if this seemed to be have been more of a revolution than a conscious management decision.

This has been the second World Cup in succession where a team has had a dust up with their coach and tripped through to the final. Once would be an accident, twice seems more than a coincidence. Is a siege mentality helpful during the knock out stages as it focuses the mind on the task in hand? France almost beat New Zealand because of their defence, denying them lineout ball at set piece time, denying them space with quick line speed in broken play and denying them counter attacking opportunities through solid ball retention. It was a performance of artisans rather than artists.

Squads preparing for future World Cups will not use France v2.011 as a template, despite how close they came to triumph. Vive la difference!

2 thoughts on “Report Card: The Pink Panther Departs [France]

  1. Allez les Bleus (?)/Blancs? Maso’s big call; but more important for the hosts; hard to imagine Piri getting just the same energy into the Haka surrounded by the All-Greys; or the All-Whites!
    France displayed their repertiore of wonderful skills – and should have won. Perhaps the ‘Mole’ should examine if there is any conspiracy involving a tall South African equipped with a whistle and a young French player wearing his First Cap?
    Gerry Thorney’s analysis gets very close to rugby league – particularly where a prop ‘rests’ his elbow – forfeiting just 2 points less than a try. With many a H-Cup game closed out by Munster & Leinster over the last few years, would a ‘use it or lose it’ suit at the end-game? Yet, as a spectacle, the finale can be a stalemate in the hands and feet of a talented winner!

  2. Mole I think France had a psychologist for last year’s (victorious) 6 nations. I remember lievremont bigging up their contribution. Not sure if they retained the services. You’d have to feel sorry for them if so!

    Sandpiper I read that article too and would have to say I agree with g.t on most if the principles if not totally sold on the canges proposed. As always I have a few thoughts and as always I’m gonna subject you to them.

    Regarding the anti-climactic end games…..ruchie sitting with ball at his feet waiting for joubert to say “use it” while joubert politely waits for mccaw to do something (after you sir, no after you) is not good. The Hollywood change they could try is when the game hits 80 minutes we play until after the second break in play and not the first. That would lend itself to exciting finishes and might be favoured by those who are happy to see ‘the product’ going to South Africa for a heineken game. The easier option is for paddy o’b to send out a dictat that referees are encouraged to penalise teams who are killing the contest by going off feet as a time wasting method. That one is seldom blown up during a game as the intention is not to penalize an attacking team, but that leeway is currently being exploited at end game.

    I also read franno talking about his dislike of the goading of opponents by patting their heads etc. Couldn’t agree more on that one. It is unsporting and should be met with a yellow card, or else it will eventually be met with retaliation. I know if it was done to me I would be saying: does your ma stitch?…….why?……get her to stitch this, wallop. Admittedly I would like to be Ferris shaped before doing that.

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