France plan to target Jonny Wilkinson in quarter-final

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The Independent Online

Jonny Wilkinson is set to be targeted by France in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Eden Park in Auckland.

Wilkinson was today named at fly-half by Martin Johnson for the last eight clash, despite a series of unconvincing displays in the tournament thus far.

And France flanker Julien Bonnaire believes Les Bleus can take advantage of Toulon playmaker Wilkinson's selection to gain momentum.

Clermont Auvergne back row Bonnaire said: "He, as well as the others, is not as good under pressure.

"It's down to us to show more aggressiveness so that he doesn't put his team forward. Having said that, generally speaking the English are always good against us."

England and France have met four times in World Cup history.

In 1991, England prevailed in a brutal quarter-final, while four years later France won the third-placed play-off in South Africa.

However, England have beaten Les Bleus in the last two World Cups at the semi-final stage, going on to win in 2003 before finishing runners-up to South Africa in Paris in 2007.

Hooker William Servat anticipates the contest, known as Le Crunch, will be attritional.

He said: "I don't think it'll be an awesome game, but it will be a tough battle."

While England emerged from Pool B with four wins from four games, despite some less than convincing displays, France have an even greater point to prove after finishing their Pool A campaign with a 19-14 loss to Tonga last weekend.

Servat added: "It is not easy to justify ourselves when we failed to win. As for me, yes, I got it wrong in my own commitment.

"Now, having said that, a lot of people make mistakes in their life choices and it is far more serious. We made a mistake as sportsmen, but it remains a sport. A beautiful one."

France have attempted to downplay the internal strife which has marred their campaign and insist theirs is a squad united in pursuit of World Cup glory.

Since the draw was made England and France were expected to be quarter-final opponents and Les Bleus have a history of responding from under-par displays by playing some scintillating rugby a week later.

Servat is adamant France can bounce back from their Tonga debacle after being encouraged by the wins over Japan and Canada earlier in the tournament.

He added: "In the first two games we did score 40 points against two teams that were not that bad. And we did get a bit of satisfaction out of it.

"Against the All Blacks we lost, but everyone seemed to have known what to expect - us too perhaps, unconsciously.

"We clearly missed the point against Tonga, but during this week's training I enjoyed myself."