Rugby World Cup 2011: France 'have not weakened team'

Marc Lievremont
Lievremont has been criticised in both the French and New Zealand media

France have denied claims by the New Zealand media they have weakened their team to play the All Blacks.

The losers of Saturday's game are likely to finish second in Pool A and could therefore avoid Australia and South Africa in the knockout stages.

Head coach Marc Lievremont said: "We will do everything to beat New Zealand.

He added sarcastically: "I will speak to the players to see what they decide. Perhaps they will decide to give up if it's easier for us afterward."

After Australia's suprise defeat by Ireland in Pool C, the winners of Pool A are on course to meet either the Wallabies or South Africa in the semi-finals.

By contrast, the team that finishes second looks set for a route to the final clear of any southern-hemisphere opposition.

Lievremont has selected usual scrum-half Morgan Parra to play at fly-half against the All Blacks in Auckland despite having just 35 minutes of Test experience in the position.

In total, France show five changes to the side that beat Canada 46-19 on Sunday.

Regular scrum-half Morgan Parra, who briefly played at 10 for the final quarter of their opening win over Japan, takes over at fly-half from Francois Trinh-Duc.

Aurelien Rougerie switches to centre with Maxime Medard back on the wing.

Dimitri Yachvili returns at scrum-half, captain Thierry Dusautoir at flanker and Lionel Nallet at lock.

Dimitri Szarzewski is preferred to William Servat at hooker, while Imanol Harinordoquy also has to settle for a place on the bench with Louis Picamoles and Julien Bonnaire joining Dusautoir in the back row.

The New Zealand Herald newspaperexternal-link described Lievremont's selection as a "farce", depriving All Blacks fans of a decent contest after a capacity crowd of 60,000 spent up to NZ$460 (£241) apiece for tickets.

Pascal Pape, who is set to win his 31st cap in the second row in the match at Eden Park, rejected the criticism.

"When you've got the blue jersey on, you never squander a match," he said.

"It's in no way a farce. They should leave us alone and we'll see on Saturday."

Back row Imanol Harinordoquy, named on the bench, was equally dismissive.

"They're trying to light the fuse but the wood is damp. It won't catch," he said.

"I feel like telling them that I've bought four tickets at 250 euros (£217) each, and I'm not complaining."

The All Blacks have yet to win the World Cup since the inaugural competition, also on home soil, in 1987.

France produced shock victories to end New Zealand's campaigns in 1999 and 2007 and the hosts forwards coach Steve Hanson insisted his side would not be taking the opposition lightly.

He said: "We'll treat them with the utmost respect, as we always do. We're just preparing as if it's the best French team that they could pick."

New Zealand team: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Daniel Carter, Piri Weepu; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Adam Thomson. Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Sonny Bill Williams.

France team: Damien Traille, Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Maxime Mermoz, Maxime Medard, Morgan Parra, Dimitri Yachvili; Jean-Baptiste Poux, Dimitri Szarzewski, Luc Ducalcon, Pascal Pape, Lionel Nallet, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Julien Bonnaire, Louis Picamoles. Replacements: William Servat, Fabien Barcella, Julien Pierre, Imanol Harinordoquy, Francois Trinh-Duc, Fabrice Estebanez, Cedric Heymans.