France hurt by criticism says Morgan Parra

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The Independent Online

Morgan Parra has admitted the French players have been hurt by stinging criticism surrounding their appearance in Sunday's World Cup final against New Zealand.

France have reached the showpiece occasion at Eden Park despite losing to New Zealand and Tonga in the pool phase, and then scraping past 14-man Wales last weekend.

But despite some feeble form at times - and regular reports of rifts in the camp between players and coach Marc Lievremont - Les Bleus are one away from securing a first world title.

"We are trying to keep ourselves in a cocoon," fly-half Parra said.

"The players are getting some negative feedback, and if some people are saying we do not deserve to be where we are then that hurts.

"We play on the pitch and we try to give the best possible image of French rugby.

"When we read the criticism in the press, we don't want to read it, but criticism from our supporters saying we do not deserve to be here or certain English or Welsh players saying the same thing, that hurts. But it brings us together."

Lievremont labelled some of his players "spoiled brats" earlier this week when they went out to celebrate victory over Wales after he asked them not to.

And Parra added: "Maybe he was just annoyed.

"For certain players, the World Cup has been quite difficult, and maybe they needed to go out.

"The whole group did not go out and I am not sure why he called us all 'spoiled brats'. But we have spoken about it, and that is the end of it."

Parra, who has played most of his international rugby at scrum-half, guided France to victory over Wales with his accurate goalkicking, and he is crucial for Les Bleus as they target a huge World Cup upset this weekend.

"I never thought I would be playing in the final at number 10," he said.

"It is a dream of mine, and I am trying to make the most of it and I am going to try to enjoy it the best I can, be that on the pitch or off the pitch. But for the dream to come true we have to win.

"I think when I go back to my club (Clermont Auvergne) I will go back to being number nine. But as long as I am playing and enjoying it, I don't care where I play."

France number eight Imanol Harinordorquy, meanwhile, is relishing the prospect of featuring in a World Cup final.

"To play in a World Cup Final has never happened to me before and it will never happen again," said the Biarritz back-row forward.

"But we will have to remain composed, keep a cool head and not try to focus on what is at stake.

"I think at times we can be our own worst enemy, and that is why I am saying I think we need to concentrate on ourselves."