De Glanville shuns old approach

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The Independent Online
Brian Moore would have detected more than a whiff of rank heresy about Phil de Glanville yesterday. The England captain's public abandonment of the psychological warfare techniques so successfully deployed against the French in recent years must have left the infamous "Pitbull" wondering whether the rugby world he used to inhabit still existed.

Moore was a master of the wind-up during his long reign as England's front-row kingpin; indeed, he dedicated so much of his international career to getting under the skins of the most volatile Tricolores that the Parc des Princes faithful nicknamed him "the splinter". His description of the French side as "fifteen Eric Cantonas" was just about the most conciliatory comment he ever voiced on his favourite subject.

De Glanville wants things done differently. "The mental element is not the key factor it once was," he said before yesterday's training session at Bisham Abbey. "The French have massively improved their own discipline - I don't think the old edge of nastiness has been there over the last couple of years - so I'm not sure how much mileage is left in the old approach.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're not attempting to get under anyone's skin and there will be no wind-up process. I think you'll find that although they don't emphasise it in public, players like Mark Regan have every bit as much desire as Brian Moore brought to the England camp. There is a quieter aura about the pack these days; they prefer to do their talking on the field rather than off it."

The captain did, however, accept the need for greater ruthlessness from his side. "We're not as clinical as we would like to be in terms of finishing," he said. "Ruthlessness comes from experience and confidence and this is still a relatively new side. We're moving forward with each game but we need to accelerate our development and improve our strike rate against the French because we know we will get less scoring chances against them than against either Scotland or Ireland."

England's injury concerns eased slightly yesterday. De Glanville predicted he would be at "full throttle" on Saturday following ankle trouble and although Simon Shaw, the Bristol lock, and Richard Hill, the Saracens flanker, were still trying to shake off frustrating ailments, the captain was optimistic that both would be declared fit.

Whatever the state of England's walking wounded, their casualty list was as nothing compared to that of the French. The visitors will go into the game without their entire first-choice threequarter line, their preferred scrum-half and two valued members of their back five, the lock Olivier Roumat and the versatile loose forward Philippe Benetton.

Jean-Claude Skrela announced four changes, one of them positional, to the side that beat Wales in Paris 12 days ago. The most significant sees Alain Penaud, captain of the European champions Brive, restored at outside- half despite suspicions over his match fitness. His return means a switch to centre for Christophe Lamaison, another Brive player, who played outside Penaud throughout the Heineken Cup campaign.

Up at the sharp end, Franck Tournaire, of Narbonne, takes over the tight- head berth from Jean-Louis Jordana after completing a one-match suspension for kicking Irish hooker Allen Clarke during the Five Nations opener in Dublin. But perhaps the most intriguing selection is that of Oliver Magne, the explosive wing forward from Dax, on the open-side flank.

Magne impressed a number of very good judges when he fairly piled into Bath during a high-quality European Cup match last October and his emergence allows Abdel Benazzi, the extravagantly gifted French captain, to move across the back row to his favoured position of blind side. Another Dax forward, Fabien Pelous, stays at No 8.

n Paul Flavin was yesterday named as the replacement for Nick Popplewell at loose-head prop in Ireland's side to face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday. The Blackrock College player was promoted from the Ireland A side after Popplewell withdrew with a hamstring strain.

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