Rugby Union: France sense revenge

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

DAVID LLEWELLYN

France have started psyching themselves up for tomorrow's Five Nations opener against England at Parc des Princes with a rebel yell. The three players, banned for two months after staying on in South Africa following last summer's World Cup, are all fired up for the game.

Laurent Cabannes, Olivier Roumat and Thierry Lacroix last turned out for France in the third place play-off in the World Cup when they beat England 19-9 in Pretoria. That victory ended a lengthy losing sequence for the French that began some eight years ago and last night Cabannes, at 31 France's oldest player on show tomorrow, insisted: "There is a time for everything. This is the time to beat the English."

Roumat, the former captain, reminded everyone that this has been a good season for France when he said: "The team has beaten the All Blacks, now we have to add England to our list of victims."

They may think they have a distinct psychological edge but their last victory in the Five Nations over any Will Carling team was back in 1988.

Over in Dublin, Scotland need to show that they can live without their former captain, Gavin Hastings, whose brother Scott yesterday passed a late fitness test on a knee injury, as they try to overcome a rejuvenated Ireland. To emerge with victory is a tall order for the new captain, Rob Wainwright, but as a doctor of medicine he is probably best qualified to prove there is life after Gavin.

In fact, Wainwright reckons Hastings' impressive record as captain has helped him. He said: "It is far nicer to follow an established captain than be the sixth captain in two years, which implies you are taking over a rather more shaky ship."

Ireland will have been lifted with the news that their lock Neil Francis, the outside-half, Eric Elwood, and Bath's wing, Simon Geoghegan, are all fit for the game. For Scotland, Craig Chalmers, the outside-half, confined to the bench, has a hand injury that is causing some concern.

n Gary Rees, who has 23 caps for England on the flank, has resigned as coach of Nottingham to concentrate on playing for the Second Division strugglers.

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