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The Independent Online
THE RENDITION of "La Marseillaise" made the classic effort in the film Casablanca pale by comparison. And this in a city that up until a week ago was largely uninterested in the 1999 rugby World Cup.

The owner of the bar A La Ville de Paris was so concerned by this sudden fervour that he forced his way though the demi-swilling crowd to begin dismantling light fittings in case they got broken. If it was slow in starting, French passion was certainly in full flight yesterday afternoon.

Wedged in a corner was a group of Parisian friends who regularly gathered for rugby-playing occasions, and even they seemed taken by surprise by all the sound and fury of it.

"I think it is to do with the fact that the chance to be in the final, or even the semi-final, was not seen as being at all likely, but, once they saw it was possible, it reminded people of the football World Cup and they wanted to join in," said Marion Ruard. "I only hope that the game will be beautiful, that's the most important thing," she added before the kick-off.

However commendable, this attitude did not seem to reflect the general view. That was more accurately expressed in the bar exploding with joy for the first French penalty, followed by booing as the Australians lined up for the reply.

Despite the odd wagging of a rugby-supporting head at such questionable displays, it was obvious that for this game at least, football rules applied.