France look to follow England's World Cup example

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The Independent Online

France defence coach Dave Ellis believes replicating England's 2007 experiences can see Les Bleus advance to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals at their rivals' expense this Saturday.

France qualified for the quarter-finals in unconvincing fashion as Pool A runners-up to New Zealand and lost 19-14 to Tonga last weekend, while England won all four group games to top Pool B.

England similarly struggled in the 2007 World Cup, losing 36-0 to South Africa in their opening game before progressing to the final, beating France on the way.

Four years ago England's players seized more control and now Les Bleus' senior squad members have done the same, while retaining confidence in head coach Marc Lievremont.

Ellis said: "The players have done that, they've taken the lead.

"They haven't taken anything out of the hands of the coaches, they've just taken more responsibility for their actions, the non-existent actions of last week and the future actions of this coming weekend."

Asked if he expects a completely different France team to turn up at Eden Park on Saturday, Ellis was unequivocal.

He said: "This week a lot of the players have stood up and taken responsibility for their actions. They're going to give their response at the weekend.

"I think there will be a major performance from the big players that need to step up and I think they will step up.

"The old phrase of a week's a long time in rugby is very evident for the French team.

"They are quite capable of having an off day and then going from basement to penthouse in seven days."

While satisfied with the defensive display, Ellis described the loss to Tonga as the worst in his 10-year spell with Les Bleus.

Ellis, who has also worked as Gloucester and London Irish defence coach, added: "A lot of French people say to me the Anglo-Saxons rely on consistency.

"I think the French rely a little bit on inconsistency. They embrace the challenge and there's a big challenge.

"You've got to put some of the memories of the first four games behind, get on with the job in hand and hopefully qualify for the semi-final of the World Cup and the enemy's right on front of you.

"There's no greater motivation than that."

In the past, France have plucked stunning performances out of adversity.

Ellis added: "The history's there. History for the French is a very important thing.

"I'm certain it's in the back of the players' minds that they can do it this weekend.

"Everybody expects that (a backlash). The mood in the camp's very good."

Ellis backed Lievremont and insisted the disharmony in the squad was a result of mis-communication.

He said: "On Sunday we all got together, had a good afternoon together and since then it's been very good.

"It's just certain things being mentioned in the press being taken out of context, that's all."

England have had their own share of off-field difficulties, but Ellis played down their problems too.

He added: "Once again I think there's been a couple of incidents there blown out of all proportion.

"I know most of the English boys very well and I think they're a bit surprised by it all as well.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with England - I think I'd be quite happy playing the first four pool games and winning four.

"It's all about winning, that's all. I saw interviews with some of the players - Alex Corbisiero, who I coached at London Irish, and Mark Cueto - their responses were perfect.

"They've conceded one try, they've won four games, they topped the group.

"They haven't shown a great deal yet in the games that they've won but they've been winning games.

"We took note of that in 2010 when we played them at the Stade de France to win the Grand Slam.

"We won by playing ugly and it's something we've taken from England."

France were beaten by England in the 2003 and 2007 tournaments at the semi-final stage.

Ellis insisted those results are not part of Les Bleus' motivation for Saturday.

He added: "When the French play against England revenge doesn't come into it a great deal.

"There's enough there in the mix anyway, a game between England and France without throwing any more ingredients in there."