Sport Rugby

Sunday 19 January 2020

Lievremont cries foul over biased refereeing

Hugh Farrelly

FRANCE have begun the mind games ahead of Saturday's crucial showdown against Ireland in Paris with coach Marc Lievremont claiming his team are the victims of unfair refereeing.

France opened their Six Nations campaign with a comfortable 18-9 victory over Scotland in Murrayfield last Sunday but Lievremont maintains Welsh referee Nigel Owens helped the Scots keep the margin of victory down and says the French were also harshly penalised when Ireland won in Croke Park last year.

"I have to pay tribute to the courage of the Scots but the referee's leniency with them and his extreme severity with our team was one of the reasons why the score was not higher," he said.

"I feel sad because it's a bit recurring. We can't forget that last year in Dublin, there were 13 penalties against us and two against Ireland," he added, referring to France's 30-21 defeat at Croke Park in 2009, a game which was also controlled by Owens.

Saturday's match at the Stade de France will be refereed by Englishman Wayne Barnes who famously received death threats from New Zealand after making several contentious decisions which helped France to a quarter-final win over the All Blacks in 2007.

Lievremont has injury concerns over wingers Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Fall, along with prop Luc Ducalcon. Rougerie is deemed the biggest concern but Lievremont, who has built a reputation for wide-ranging selections, has named the same 23-man squad that accounted for Scotland and says he wants to build consistency.

"The group of 23 players will be retained despite the uncertainties," said Lievremont. "It's been a while since there was continuity in the France team, given injuries and dips in form."

Meanwhile, Johnnie Beattie insists Scotland showed enough in their opener against France to be confident of upsetting Wales this weekend.

Glasgow No 8 Beattie was arguably one of only two of Andy Robinson's players to enhance their reputation in Sunday's dispiriting 18-9 defeat at Murrayfield.

France completely dominated territory and could easily have won more convincingly, even though the Scotland camp claim it was the taking of chances that was the biggest difference between the sides.

"We did show that we can create things and if we can finish off then we'll be dangerous," said Beattie, who made one telling break in the first half which the home side failed to finish off.

"It's disappointing to get off to that start but you've just got to have a 'next game' mentality, look forward to the next challenge and get back on that horse quickly and look to reverse things.

"It's good that it's only six days away," he concluded.

Irish Independent

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