France brace for Tonga match
Wellington: Fear of World Cup elimination is giving France coach Marc Lievremont the jitters on the eve of a decisive match against Tonga.
Two-time finalist France, which has advanced to the knockout stage of every Rugby World Cup to date, can lose today's match and still progress. But it gets complicated if Tonga produce an upset.
But France is low on confidence and has played inconsistently so far, which leaves Lievremont with a nagging feeling.
"The risk is that we lose the game and pack our bags on Sunday morning to go back home," he said yesterday. "It gives me a stomach ache to think that it's possible, but that's the way it is. We didn't manage to get the [bonus] point against New Zealand that would have been enough to qualify."
The odds remain heavily in France's favour, however, as it has 10 competition points — from wins against Japan and Canada both secured with a bonus point — to Tonga's five. Tonga must score four tries and win by more than a seven-point margin to reach its first ever quarterfinal.
Wellington's stadium will be packed with the red flags and noisy throngs of Tonga's support.
"They will give their all in this match, they have everything to win, not much to lose," Lievremont said of Tonga. "They will probably be very aggressive in front of many fans who will encourage them. Those are enough reasons to take them very seriously ... If we qualify by playing well, that's great, but the main thing is to win."
France hooker William Servat is heading into the game as if he were preparing for an away match.
"They will have a lot of close friends and family there, their strength will be tenfold," he said. "Because they have to win and get a bonus point, Tonga will come at us."