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France look to ditch the history books
« on: October 06, 2007, 11:05:36 AM »

France look to ditch the history books
(Rugby News Service) Friday 5 October 2007
By Evan Sieff From Paris

Perfection needed: France wing Vincent Clerc says his team will need to play flawless rugby
PARIS, 5 October - France are unlikely to be flicking through the rugby world cup history books ahead of their quarter-final against New Zealand, and with good reason.

New Zealand have never lost in the world cup quarter-final stage while France, who won the 2007 Six Nations, can draw little confidence from their title of reigning northern hemisphere champions.

Saturday's match will mark the fifth time New Zealand have played the reigning northern hemisphere champion in a world cup - they have won the previous four encounters.

Shock win

While the French still gain inspiration from their shock 43-31 win over New Zealand in the 1999 RWC semi-final, wing Vincent Clerc is clear about what is required in 2007.

"We need to be perfect. Anybody who plays the All Blacks will have that in their heads."

However, perfection may still not be enough. New Zealand cruised through the pool stage scoring a record 309 points and have scored at least 29 points in each of their five quarter-final appearances.

France, on the other hand, are in unfamiliar territory as they have always played their world cup quarter-finals as pool winners.

The past is the past

History shows finishing the pool stage as runner-up is far from ideal, with England in 1995 the only team to win through to the semi-final after failing to conquer their pool.

Despite being on a nine-match unbeaten run against the French, New Zealand flanker Jerry Collins is quick to dismiss the significance of past results.

"A sports psychologist would use it, but if you are realistic you wouldn't. France can beat anyone on the day just like we can. We tend to deal with what's in front of us," he said.

And what will be in front of them on Saturday night will be a French outfit intent on creating their own rugby world cup history.

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