Berbizier on attack over France coach

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The Independent Online

The Italy coach, Pierre Berbizier, has delivered a scathing attack on Bernard Laporte, his France counterpart, just days before the two meet in the opening match of the Six Nations Championship in Rome on Saturday.

Berbizier questioned Laporte's ability to lead France to World Cup success on home soil in October. The former France captain, who also coached Les Bleus between 1991 and 1995, claims that compared to Aimé Jacquet, who led the French football team to World Cup glory in 1998, Laporte does not have the charisma and personality to help the national team lift the much coveted trophy. "There was the 'Jacquet effect' back then," Berbizier said. "I do hope that France will be crowned world champion but, like many people, I have my doubts.

"Do we really know what we are doing? We know that there is a World Cup coming up and many people believe that, because it takes place in France, it's going to be like in 1998. The only conviction I have about this World Cup is that it will be a great popular success in the country."

Berbizier also criticised Laporte's management of the team during the 2003 World Cup, when the French were eliminated in the semi-finals by the eventual winners England, and most recently, during Les Bleus' catastrophic autumn Test matches, when Laporte's men suffered a 47-3 thrashing by New Zealand.

"The players are not the priority whereas the coach is at the heart of the problems," Berbizier added. "The right questions are not raised."

About the 2003 World Cup he added: "We had a great forward line capable of destroying all our rivals but we lost our strength in the most important moments. We talked too much and did not work enough and in the end we lost the World Cup."

Berbizier, who led France to a third-place finish in the 1995 World Cup and has been Italy's coach since April 2005, also believes he could do better than Laporte. "Without being envious of Bernard Laporte, I have never seen so many resources put at the French team's disposal," he added.

"I would have liked to have as many back in 1995. But being given all the existing resources to be a success is one thing, using them properly is another."

* The All Blacks utility back Aaron Mauger, a 38-Test veteran, will join Leicester after this year's World Cup. Mauger, 26, who plays mostly at fly-half and inside centre, will join on a two-year contract.

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