France's warm-up gets a little heated

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The Independent Online
France were sporting a few extra injuries yesterday after a bruising warm-up match against the Correctional Services Club in Pretoria. Marc Cecillon, the No 8, hurt a wrist and centre Thierry Lacroix took a knock on the shoulder against a side featuring five former Northern Transvaal players, although both should be fit for tomorrow's semi-final against South Africa.

Half-back Fabien Galthie insisted that his side needed a difficult game to prepare for the match with the Springboks. "It's mentally different, because they are always ready for a fight," he said. "Their only mental preparation is prayer. We have to go through a build-up. We must win, but I have to say I'm worried."

The South African full-back, Andre Joubert, who broke a bone in his left hand in the quarter-final against Western Samoa, is confident he will not be hampered by the injury after undergoing an operation to put metal pins in his hand.

"I feel I can play to my full ability. I did some tackling training and was fielding high balls without any problem," Joubert said. "I've been prone to injury all my career and I've come back from some major problems before. Playing with a cast on my hand will boost my confidence."

Winger James Small, the most capped of the current crop of South Africans, has extensive experience against the French, who have lost only one of their last four matches against the Springboks. "It was my thinking before the World Cup started that France and New Zealand would be the two teams to beat at this tournament," he said.

Hannes Strydom said the selection of Mark Andrews at No 8 would add to the confidence of the team in the line-outs and make matters easier for the South Africans. Andrews' surprise choice at the back of the scrum has allowed Strydom to resume his long-standing partnership in the second row with Kobus Wiese.

"We expect a good run from the French forwards," Strydom said. "It will be very important for us to attack from the outset and to do that the tight five will need to get good ball. I think we will get a good run for our money."