Rugby Union: Few early-season jitters for France: Berbizier welcomes early-season victory as trial for sterner tests

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France. . .51

Romania. . .0

THE FRENCH have always considered their annual match against Romania as something of a chore. More than once they have paid the penalty for taking the opposition too lightly. But here yesterday, with Olivier Roumat captaining his first home Test, France showed no signs of early season jitters and in terms of application and concentration they are right back on track for the season to come.

'All I ask them to do was respect the basics. And they showed they could do it from the first minute to the last,' the French coach, Pierre Berbizier, said. They ran in six tries, all converted by the reliable Thierry Lacroix, while Philippe Bernat-Salles touched down three times, equalling a similar feat last May in Bucharest.

The major satisfaction in the French backs came from the incisive running of Jean-Luc Sadourny. Deprived of an early try when he lost the ball over the line, Sadourny's entries into the back line repeatedly split the Romanian defence.

France's pack confirmed their progression, with another mature performance from Olivier Roumat and a try in his first Test for the Senegal-born flanker Leon Loppy. Most impressive, however, was the contribution of the 20-stone lumberjack from Grenoble, Olivier Merle. The young second row not only shone at the line-out but also figured in several powerful charges up the middle, being rewarded for his efforts when he crashed over to score perhaps the best try.

Played in perfect, sunny conditions the game never had the urgency of a major international. Romania competed well for most of the match, especially in the line-out, but they had no reply to the pace of the French, nor to their remarkable defence. The Romanian skipper Haralambie Dumitras expressed his admiration for the French performance. 'They seem to have gained extra confidence in their own ability and their own game,' he said.

Berbizier considered this warm-up match a successful trial before the Test series against Australia. 'The challenge is now to do the same thing again, but against superior opposition,' he said.

France: Tries Bernat-Salles 3, Sella, Merle, Loppy; Penalties Lacroix 3; Conversions Lacroix 6.

FRANCE: J-L Sadourny; P Bernat-Salles, P Sella, T Lacroix, D Berty; A Penaud, A Hueber; S Graou, J-M Gonzalez, L Armary, O Roumat (capt), O Merle, M Cecillon, L Loppy, P Benetton. Replacements: O Campan for Sella, 58; L Seigne for Armary, 56.

ROMANIA: G Solomie; A Mitocaru, M Nedelcu, N Fulina, M Dumitru; F Ion, M Foca; G Vlad, G Ion, G Leonte, C Cojocariu, H Dumitras (capt), T Brinzi, I Selceanu, G Dinu. Replacements: G Girbu for Secelean, 49; M Maran for Dinu, 61.

Referee: J Fleming (Scotland).

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