Rugby Union: French refuse to be drawn into ignoble combat: Berbizier and Carling air their feelings about discipline as France and England prepare for tomorrow's showdown

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The Independent Online
THESE days the French like to think they dance to a different tune than when they had two sent off against England two years ago, but that does not stop them expecting an English wind-up when the teams take their partners at Parc des Princes tomorrow.

This metaphor was how the France coach, Pierre Berbizier, chose to see the game when he took time out from training at Clairefontaine, south of Paris, yesterday. Implicit in his remarks was that England, in particular the hooker, Brian Moore, set out with the deliberate intention of driving the French over the edge.

'There has been bad discipline by us, but it was well orchestrated by a number of England players as they reached for the weak point,' Berbizier said. 'Moore was the conductor and he holds the baton well. It is up to us to prove we know about the music that they are playing and that we respond in the right way. I hope we can dance the most beautiful dance for the pleasure of the public.'

Only the French could so romanticise the need for discipline, and all Berbizier is now asking is that referees apply the same strictures to the opposition as to France. Tomorrow's referee is the self-same Stephen Hilditch who sent off Gregoire Lascube and Vincent Moscato against England in 1992.

'England players gesticulate on the field, and it leads me to believe that Moore is the provocative conductor,' the coach added. 'There has to be iron discipline for both teams. We have a struggle against violence on the field but the problem is not ours alone. It is something everyone must face.'

Olivier Roumat, the French captain, anticipated 'combat in the noble sense' but England are quite happy to contemplate French ignobility. 'It will be emphasised that discipline is overridingly important when it comes to combating France,' Will Carling said yesterday before his team flew from Heathrow.

'If we don't give away penalties, their chances will be reduced and we will be in a position to make our penalty chances count if the French lose their discipline.' It can be taken for granted that England, with Moore in the forefront, will be seeking to make them do exactly that.

Meanwhile, the winless Scots flew from Edinburgh to Dublin yesterday with Gavin Hastings, their captain, confident that his goalkicking would finally come right against Ireland. Simon Geoghegan, the Ireland winger, and the flanker, Brian Robinson, both passed fitness tests yesterday and will take their places at Lansdowne Road tomorrow.