‘France can win’

2011-10-22 07:37

Auckland – France great Jean-Pierre Rives said the current team could turn the tables and win the World Cup after meeting up with the squad at training on the eve of their Eden Park final against New Zealand.

Ever since they scraped a 9-8 semifinal win over 14-man Wales, France – beaten twice in the pool phase, including 37-17 by New Zealand – have been derided as the worst team ever to reach a Rugby World Cup final.

But Rives, captain of the first France team to beat New Zealand at Eden Park in 1979 was in an optimistic mood after talking to members of the current squad during their final training session at the Auckland ground here today.

“I think they can win,” legendary flanker Rives, who led France to a 24-19 win at Eden Park 32 years ago, insisted. “It’s not a matter of the score but their spirit. I think they are ready.”

Rives, who was in a delegation from the French Barbarians, said he wanted to show his support for the team.

“It’s important for me to here. It’s a dream for us. We’ve come thousands of kilometres to support them.”

Among those accompanying Rives as part of a delegation from the French Barbarians, was former centre Andre Boniface, a member of the first France team to beat New Zealand, 3-0 in 1954.

“I just told them to enjoy it,” Boniface replied when asked what he’d said to the players. “It’s great to be here.”

The French Barbarians were formed by members of the France team that completed a 1977 Grand Slam in what was then the Five Nations Championship.

But they have since co-opted other great French players from different eras into the club, including full-back Serge Blanco and current team manager Jo Maso.

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