France coach Marc Lievremont has admitted his concern at Wales’ selection of James Hook at fly-half for Wales in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final.
Hook, after starting the opening two pool matches against South Africa and Samoa at full-back, was named at fly-half after younger compatriot Rhys Priestland was ruled out due to a shoulder injury, with Wales coach Warren Gatland leaving veteran No 10 Stephen Jones on the bench for this weekend’s match at Eden Park.
“It’s not great news for us,” Lievremont said of Hook’s selection.
“Priestland is a good player, but James Hook is an experienced player and Wales will undoubtedly be stronger with him.
“He’s more of an all-round player, more experienced, and experience at this level is very important when you see the youth in the Wales team.”
France managed to qualify for the knock-out phase despite losing to New Zealand and Tonga in pool play, but a vibrant 19-12 quarter-final victory over England pushed them into the last four.
“We’re running on adrenalin and I’ve had to tell myself that I can sleep in 10 days’ time,” Lievremont said.
“We’re happy to have got here, it’s like the World Cup has been kick-started for us.
“Hopefully, we’ll continue in the same vein and attain our objectives.
“Of the four semi-finalists, France has lost two games and we will need to be better in defence.
“For a team to get results, you need confidence. We’re coming off a good match against England, we’ve had a good week’s training and we seem to all be singing from the same hymn sheet.”
But the coach, who played as flanker in the France side that lost the 1999 World Cup final to Australia, said his players needed to get angry.
“We need a hint of anger that will work as our impetus.
“The England match wasn’t enough, we need anger at ourselves so that we don’t miss this opportunity to win a World Cup semi-final.”
France captain Thierry Dusautoir, one of three players named for Saturday’s match who played in the ‘Les Bleus’ side that lost in the semi-finals four years ago to England, said the focus was firmly turned on the strong Wales team.
“For the past few years, Wales have been putting forward an enthusiastic side,” the Toulouse blindside flanker said.
“We’ve seen a very strong Wales side here. It’s always been Wales and South Africa I’ve been on the look-out for at this World Cup.
“In general semi-finals are very difficult because even if we win a more important stage remains for us.
It’s a huge chance and we must seize it with both hands.
“After this match, there’s only one left.”