- New rules have brought attacking game
- Lievremont likes new style of play
By Jean-Paul Couret
PARIS (Reuters) - Rugby is changing fast thanks to new rules and the 2011 World Cup will be won by the team that adapts best to an attacking and enterprising game, according to France coach Marc Lievremont.
“I have never seen rugby change so much in a year,” he told Reuters in an interview.
“If you take the Tri-Nations as the barometer of international rugby, it was day and night between 2009 and 2010 in terms of rhythm, tries scored, balance between kicking and handling.”
This year, referees in the Tri-Nations tournament between New Zealand, Australia and South Africa were instructed to let the game flow and favour the attacking sides with their interpretations.
The France coach, who has been pushing his players to revert to a more flowing game since he was appointed after the 2007 World Cup, is all in favour of the new style of play.
“I like that new style compared to the padlocked game of 2007,” he said at the French team headquarters in Marcoussis where he was working on his strategy for the November tests and, in the longer term, the World Cup in New Zealand.
“The problem is...”
The French coach was interrupted by the arrival of a group of executives of a telecommunication company taking part in a seminar of rugby and motivation.
Back from a training session and before having a shower in rooms used by the French team, they invaded the bar displaying and greeted with ambiguous remarks the France sevens women’s team laughing their way through the room.
ALL BLACKS GAME
“The problem is that this new style of play suits the All Blacks perfectly. It’s their game, their tradition. I was impressed by the game they developed in the Tri-Nations with the new rules”, he resumed.
“I don’t think that for the time being we can match them physically and technically in terms of rhythm and individual enterprise.”
Asked if the All Blacks were unbeatable, he answered: “Fortunately, in our sport, there isn’t a team that is unbeatable on one day.
“They are a cut above the rest but at the same time, it’s not new. If the world title was awarded on merit or according to consistency in results, they would have been crowned every time.”
Twice in the World Cup, France have knocked aside New Zealand when the All Blacks were touted as hot favourites, in a 1999 semi-final won 43-31 at Twickenham, and 20-18 in a 2007 quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium.
Lievremont played in the Twickenham semi-final as a flanker and would love to repeat the feat as coach when France face New Zealand in the group phase of the World Cup and, if all goes well, in the final.
“New Zealand and Australia are a step ahead of us because our championship is too conservative to let us benefit from the new rules but I’m sure we can adapt,” he said.
“The November internationals will be a good opportunity. We’ll go crescendo with a first game against Fiji, then Argentina and the Australia test will be a very interesting and very important game.”
London 2012 - IRB promise top stars for Olympics
The IRB has moved to reassure the Olympic family that Olympic rugby sevens will be the pinnacle of the sport.
Sevens, along with golf, was added to the Olympic programme last October and will feature at Rio 2016 for the first time in 92 years.
With the world sevens circuit growing in stature and the eight-legged 2010/11 HSBC Sevens World Series set to kick off in Dubai next month, there have been suggestions that Olympic sevens will be all glitz and glamour but not the number one priority on the calendar.
It’s an accusation also levelled at golf - as well as existing Olympic sports tennis and football - and is an argument given currency by the fact that the likes of squash and karate were overlooked last October.
But former IRB Council Member Carlos Tozzi, speaking at the Association of National Olympic Committees in Mexico this week, insists that for rugby sevens, it doesn’t get any better than the Olympics.
“We are proud and honoured to be rejoining the Olympic family. The Olympic Games will be the pinnacle of rugby sevens for all our athletes and the Rugby family, who were unified in their support of our campaign,” said Tozzi.
“Our planning for the Rio Olympic Games commenced on October 9, 2009, the very day Rugby Sevens along with Golf were announced in the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Programmes.
“Our early focus has been on building relationships and establishing processes between all 117 National Member Federations, or Unions as we also call them, and their respective NOCs.
“We want to ensure that in each country the correct Olympic framework is in place to support the continued development of Rugby and the continued development of Sport in each country.
“Working together we will all ensure that Rugby’s return to the Olympic Games will help realise the sporting dreams and ambitions of young men and women across the world, no matter what sport they choose to participate in.”