France coach Marc Lièvremont has said that his team are ‘very focussed’ ahead of the key Pool clash against Tonga in Wellington on Saturday.
The French grabbed a maximum 10 points from their openers against Japan and Canada, but were then soundly beaten 37-17 by New Zealand, remaining in second spot in Pool A behind the unbeaten All Blacks.
Tonga, who beat Japan but went down to Canada and the All Blacks, can mathematically still make it through to the last eight if they score four tries and win by more than seven points, denying France a bonus point.
“We’ve had a good week of training, we’ve been very focussed and I’m happy with the guys,” said Lièvremont.
“The risk for us is that we lose the match and have to pack our bags and return to France on Sunday.
“It’s competition, sport, and we have an opportunity to get into the quarter-finals. It’s something that makes me feel sick to my stomach saying that it’s possible, since we failed to take a bonus point in the New Zealand match to qualify.
“The most important thing is to win the match against Tonga: if we win, we qualify.
“The team is making progress. I hope that improves this weekend. If the team plays well, it will give us a good indication on how they’re shaping up for the quarter-finals.”
But the coach, who played flanker in the 1999 World Cup final for France, warned that the Tongans will have all to play for, especially in front of a partisan crowd, given the large Tongan population in Wellington.
“They’re capable of playing well and are extremely aggressive,” he said.
“They really have nothing to lose and all to play for. They’re also going for a third place finish for automatic qualification for the next World Cup.”
Lièvremont, central to rumours of internal strife in echoes of Raymond Domenech’s ill-fated campaign at last year’s football World Cup, played down French media reports of a potential player mutiny.
“It makes me smile,” Lièvremont said.
“There’s a huge difference between what happens within the camp and what is said and written. In any case, I don’t think it’s troubling the squad.”
Captain Thierry Dusautoir dismissed claims by former Toulouse team-mate Finau Maka that France’s weak points were in a relatively untested midfield pairing and the front row.
“The most important thing is to focus on our team and what we’re going to do,” the Ivory Coast-born flanker said.
“I’m sure they will try to take their chance to get into the quarter-finals.”