Sunday, October 14, 2007

England v France (14-9)


Jonny Wilkinson was the hero once again as England reached the World Cup final with victory over France in Paris. Wilkinson landed two second-half penalties and a drop goal as England kept alive their dreams of a successful World Cup defence.
England had stormed into the lead after just 80 seconds with a try from winger Josh Lewsey but spent most of the first half under pressure.
France fly-half Lionel Beauxis landed three penalties to edge Les Bleus ahead, but England rallied and will play either South Africa or Argentina in the final.

England made the perfect start to take the lead with a try from Josh Lewsey after just 80 seconds.
They earned a free-kick, after the first scrum was reset three times. Nick Easter bulldozed up field, before Andy Gomarsall kicked towards the corner.

Damien Traille appeared to have the ball covered but hesitated for a moment - and the bounce was perfect for the on-rushing Lewsey, who powered through the French full-back to score.

Wilkinson's kick drifted wide, and France responded within five minutes with a penalty from fly-half Lionel Beauxis.

Mark Regan's charge-down earned England a five-metre scrum, and France were under huge pressure until scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde stole around the base to disrupt - and Les Bleus cleared.

England's defence held strong against the driving maul and a counter-attack sparked by Vincent Clerc. But Andrew Sheridan was penalised for not binding, and Beauxis landed his second penalty to put France ahead.

France were pressing England deep into their own half with excellent tactical kicking from Beauxis and Traille and England struggled to relieve the pressure.

France earned a controversial lineout when Robinson was judged to have brushed the touchline but England's defence was quick to close in on Beauxis, who scuffed an attempted drop goal.

Sale's Sebastien Chabal replaced injured lock Fabien Pelous. England were having to battle for every inch of territory.

Quick hands saw Sackey and then Robinson stretch the French before Traille recovered well but Wilkinson missed with a long-range drop-goal effort of his own.

A half-break from Mat Tait had stretched the French midfield and England earned a penalty a yard inside their own half.

Wilkinson took it on and his effort had the legs but just fell wide.

Beauxis was trying his luck at any opportunity and a third drop-goal attempt dropped short and wide.

Sections of the home support were beginning to tire of France's determination to engage in a kicking duel.

England were forced into a backline reshuffle on the brink of half-time after Lewsey appeared to damage a hamstring. Dan Hipkiss came on at outside centre with Tait moved to the wing.

England gathered the restart well and Lewis Moody made good ground on a determined run but Sackey lost possession in the tackle and England were turned on their heels as France hacked forward.

Hipkiss beat Cedric Heymans in the sprint and England recovered to clear but Easter was penalised for hitting a ruck from the side and Beauxis landed his third penalty.

Moody snatched possession from Jauzion's attempted chip and Hipkiss, on his first run at the French defence, jinked into space and offloaded for Catt.

Tait was stopped in the corner but after Sheridan had charged on France were penalised at the breakdown and Wilkinson slotted his first kick of the evening.

Ten minutes into the second half, France sent on Frederik Michalak for Beauxis and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski for captain Rafael Ibanez.

Gomarsall covered to concede a five-metre scrum after a deft chip into the corner from Clerc and England halted Elissalde's attempts to attack the blind-side.

Michalak's first contribution was to hook a drop-goal attempt wide before England sent on Joe Worsley for Moody and then Matt Stevens for Phil Vickery.

England's kicking game was keeping France inside their own half. Wilkinson's right-footed drop-goal attempt hit the post and Robinson then danced through four attempted tackles on a dazzling run to move England within five yards.

But the promising position was wasted as England conceded at the breakdown and allowed France to clear.

France's line-out drive had England on the retreat inside their own 22, and Michalak chipped into space behind the defence. But Tait was alert under his own posts to sweep up the danger.

Number eight Julien Bonnaire palmed Jauzion's cross-kick back into play for Clerc, who appeared to have broken the English defence before Worsley felled him with an excellent tap tackle.

Chabal took the ball on but knocked forward, and some powerful English defence at close quarters earned the penalty - and Wilkinson cleared.

Toby Flood replaced Catt; Dallaglio was sent on for Easter with just 11 minutes remaining, and Peter Richards took over from Gomarsall - who was injured in a collision with the touch judge.

Robinson was emerging as a key factor. Another jinking run put England on the offensive, and Corry crashed over the gain line as they moved into drop-goal territory.

Flood rushed his effort - but when Robinson was felled by a high tackle from Szarzewski 30 metres Wilkinson landed the simple penalty to put England ahead with just six minutes remaining.

There was more to come too.

After Sackey and Flood had halted a powerful run from Chabal on the touchline, England moved back into the French half - and Wilkinson landed the drop goal.

Teams:

England: J Robinson (unattached); P Sackey (Wasps), M Tait (Newcastle), M Catt (London Irish), J Lewsey (Wasps); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), A Gomarsall (Harlequins); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), M Regan (Bristol), P Vickery (Wasps, capt), S Shaw (Wasps), B Kay (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: G Chuter (Leicester), M Stevens (Bath), L Dallaglio (Wasps), J Worsley (Wasps), P Richards (London Irish), T Flood (Newcastle), D Hipkiss (Leicester).

France: D Traille (Biarritz); V Clerc (Toulouse), D Marty (Perpignan), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), C Heymans (Toulouse); L Beauxis (Stade Francais), J-B Elissalde (Toulouse); O Milloud (Bourgoin), R Ibanez (Wasps, capt), P de Villiers (Stade Francais), F Pelous (Toulouse), J Thion (Biarritz), S Betsen (Biarritz), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin).

Replacements: J-B Poux (Toulouse), D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), S Chabal (Sale Sharks), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), F Michalak (Toulouse), C Dominici (Stade Francais), C Poitrenaud (Toulouse).

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).

Touch judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand) and Marius Jonker (South Africa).
despite turning the game when he came on as a second-half substitute against the All Blacks.

Damien Traille, a centre by trade, keeps his place at full-back, while Serge Betsen and Olivier Milloud have recovered from knocks sustained last weekend to start against the world champions.

Flanker Betsen took a knee to the head against the Kiwis and was forced off after just five minutes. He is back in training though, and team manager Jo Maso insisted the Biarritz star is fit.

``No doctor would take any risks in this respect,'' Maso said. ``We had some tests done in Wales, and he is okay.

``Please trust us, we would not put him on the pitch if he was in any way unfit.

France's sensational comeback display against the All Blacks, who were 13-3 ahead at half-time at the Millennium Stadium, clearly impressed the Les Bleus selectors.

Maso added: ``We are using the team that beat New Zealand last week because we were satisfied with their performance.

``We beat New Zealand with this team so there is no need to change. We had two possible ways of playing and we have chosen this one.''

Head coach Bernard Laporte predicted the boot of Jonny Wilkinson and England's defence would be the main dangers on Saturday.

``As far as they are concerned, we know their main strength is their defence,'' he said.

``In our case we are looking at Wilkinson as he is the world's best kicker, and we need to be careful what he does.

``I am confident we have made the right choices.''

It is the first time since November 2004 that Laporte has named the same team for back-to-back matches.

Laporte insisted the team selection was not an emotional choice following the amazing defeat of the All Blacks.

``So far we have chosen five different teams for five different games, and we have chosen those teams on a sporting and mental criteria.

``The eight not on the pitch are as important as the 22 on it. We trust all of them.

``Hopefully we have two more matches to go - that is the objective.''

Neutrals will be hoping for another dramatic twist in this year's tournament and with the game's biggest prize looming into view neither side will be found wanting for commitment.

Key Battles:

JONNY WILKINSON v LIONEL BEAUXIS

World Cup record-breaker Wilkinson - he now has more points than any other player in the tournament's history - averaged 17 points a game during England's unbeaten three-Test run that secured an unexpected semi-final place. The fly-half's mere presence has lifted an England side that floundered badly during its opening two pool games, but opposite number Beauxis, at just 22, is one of world rugby's rising stars. He handled the pressure brilliantly against New Zealand last Saturday, and will seek a repeat performance.

ANDY GOMARSALL v JEAN-BAPTISTE ELISSALDE

England's 2003 World Cup captain Martin Johnson has hailed scrum-half Gomarsall's influence on the team since he broke into it three games ago. He is at the peak of his powers, which represents an amazing transformation for a player who did not have a club last year and found himself involved in pub sevens rugby. Gomarsall is relishing every minute of England's World Cup progression, yet he will need to produce another top-class display opposite Elissalde, whose goalkicking and general stewardship behind a powerful French pack means he poses an immense threat.

ANDREW SHERIDAN v PIETER DE VILLIERS

Sale strongman Sheridan made powerful claims as the world's most destructive loosehead prop, courtesy of another wrecking job on the bewildered Australia front-row in Marseille last Saturday. Rarely, in recent Test rugby history, has one team's scrum been so dominant. Sheridan and company, though, accept France will be a much tougher proposition in that department, with vastly-experienced De Villiers unlikely to crumble in anything like the fashion that Wallabies tighthead Guy Shepherdson folded.

SIMON SHAW v FABIEN PELOUS

Wasps lock Shaw, even allowing for Sheridan's immense effort against Australia, has probably been the form England forward of their World Cup campaign. A magnificent scrummager, mighty ball-carrier and colossal physical presence, it begs the question why he has started less than 30 Tests since making his red rose debut 11 years ago. Shaw's second-row partnership with Ben Kay has flourished, and he could gain a significant edge over opposite number Pelous, the former France captain now approaching 120 caps. Age - 34 and 33, respectively - won't be a barrier to either of them, but if England win, then expect a dominant display by Shaw.

Teams for England versus France, World Cup semi-final, Stade de France, Paris, Saturday.

England: J Robinson (unattached); P Sackey (Wasps), M Tait (Newcastle), M Catt (London Irish), J Lewsey (Wasps); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), A Gomarsall (Harlequins); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), M Regan (Bristol), P Vickery (Wasps, capt), S Shaw (Wasps), B Kay (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: G Chuter (Leicester), M Stevens (Bath), L Dallaglio (Wasps), J Worsley (Wasps), P Richards (London Irish), T Flood (Newcastle), D Hipkiss (Leicester).

France: D Traille (Biarritz); V Clerc (Toulouse), D Marty (Perpignan), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), C Heymans (Toulouse); L Beauxis (Stade Francais), J-B Elissalde (Toulouse); O Milloud (Bourgoin), R Ibanez (Wasps, capt), P de Villiers (Stade Francais), F Pelous (Toulouse), J Thion (Biarritz), S Betsen (Biarritz), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin).

Replacements: J-B Poux (Toulouse), D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), S Chabal (Sale Sharks), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), F Michalak (Toulouse), C Dominici (Stade Francais), C Poitrenaud (Toulouse).

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).

Touch judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand) and Marius Jonker (South Africa).

1 comment:

David Bradley said...

Wilkinson was indeed the hero once again. But, did you realise he's a swinger! It's not what you think though, it's all down to the science of the drop kick.

Find out more about Jonny Wilkinson physicist extraordinaire here.