Sunday 20 October 2019

Bernard Le Roux warns Ireland 'fittest ever' France are ready and waiting

France star Bernard Le Roux will not settle for anything less than World Cup glory
France star Bernard Le Roux will not settle for anything less than World Cup glory
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

As a man who once traded blows with Johnny Sexton on the Racing Metro training field, France flanker Bernard Le Roux is clearly not afraid to give his opinion.

The naturalised South African believes that his side have generated a togetherness through training that will stand to them in the weeks to come and warned Ireland that they didn't cross the channel to be second best.

Philippe Saint-Andre's team have not been overly impressive in their first two games, but they have accumulated nine points and, after playing Canada on Thursday, will have nine days to prepare for the Pool D decider at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday week.

Will they be ready?

"Yeah, for the first time in a few years we've had a pre-season of two months and I feel the team is now quite on form, we've a really good vibe going," Le Roux said.

"So, I'm looking forward to the last two games and hopefully qualifying.


"We're here to win the competition, we're not here to be second. We have the same objectives as the other teams and we don't want to lose a game.

"We know Ireland's the biggest game in our pool, but we respect Canada and have to get past them first. We'll focus on that for the moment."

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The flanker demonstrated his versatility by slotting in at second-row in France's mixed-bag display against Romania last Wednesday and is happy to play wherever Saint-Andre sees fit.

The France coach has always insisted that his side will be better when they have time to work together and Le Roux says they are feeling the benefit of a full pre-season as the tournament progresses.

"It's unbelievable, just having a pre-season. The Top 14 is so long, you get two weeks of pre-season and start playing again after June tours, and for the first time in three years we have been able to get our bodies in shape," he explained.

"Physically, we're the fittest we've ever been and we've a good team vibe going and we know each other. We're really enjoying it."

France drew criticism for their performance against Romania - their much changed team struggled at the set-piece and took their time breaking down the Oaks.

It led to a very public half-time dressing down from Saint-Andre as the angry coach's speech was broadcast live on television, and he got a response as the 2011 finalists pushed on for a bonus point after half-time.

But Le Roux is not concerned, given the lack of preparation time and changes to the team.

"It was a bit hard to adapt for the first part of the game as we didn't have much time to prepare, but second half we got there in the end. We got the bonus point, so it all went well," he said.

"I'm glad it's out of the way now, there's only two left and they're two big ones and we're looking forward to them. I don't think anything went wrong against Romania, they were just really well prepared.

"They have got the right to be good as well, you know. They were really good at the scrum, the first lineouts and they had us a bit stressed. Well done to them. We only had two or three days to prepare, but we got our five points."

Saint-Andre names his team to face the Canadians this morning and may look to use the meeting with the winless North Americans as a dress rehearsal for his first-choice side ahead of the main event on Sunday week.

Star centre Wesley Fofana has declared himself fit after coming back from a hamstring problem against the Romanians, while wing Remy Grosso, who was called up for injury victim Yoann Huget, might see some involvement.

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