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Rugby World Cup: Confident French fancy final showdown

By Jonathan Bradley

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has said his side's World Cup campaign will only be considered a success if they once again reach the final.

Les Bleus, who face Ireland at the Millennium Stadium in a crucial Pool D clash on October 11, were runners-up four years ago under Marc Lièvremont, putting reported disharmony in the camp to one side and coming within one score of beating New Zealand to lift the trophy.

They have stuttered since Saint-Andre's appointment however and have not finished higher than fourth in the Six Nations.

Such a statistic will see the former winger's reign - he is to be replaced by former Toulouse coach Guy Noves after the World Cup - considered a failure unless he can claim redemption at the showpiece tournament that begins on Friday.

"The goal is to play a great World Cup. Coming back home in November, first or second," he said.

"We're not favourites but we have what it takes to beat any team on one game. We are ready to enter the competition. The guys are fit, they've been living like in a club. Now, let's go."

France will begin their campaign on Saturday evening against Italy at Twickenham, with the Azzurri having lost Luca Morisi for the tournament and set to be without talisman and captain Sergio Parisse for the opener, but it is the contest with Joe Schmidt's Ireland side that many believe is key to the pool.

With the runners-up likely to face New Zealand in the quarter-finals, claiming top spot becomes all the more imperative.

Between facing Italy and Ireland, France will meet Romania in the Olympic Stadium and Canada at Stadium MK.

Ireland open their campaign on Saturday afternoon against Canada at the Millennium Stadium.

Belfast Telegraph


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