Laporte: ‘All Blacks a class apart’

French coach Bernard Laporte gave an ominous warning to the rest of the Six Nations teams when he said, looking ahead to the World Cup, that New Zealand were a class apart.

A weekend of three great games among the top teams in the Northern hemisphere sent pulses racing among rugby fans as Ireland edged out Scotland 19-18, Italy hung on to beat Wales 23-20, and a depleted and deflated England side pulled out all the stops to end France’s Grand Slam hopes in a 26-18 victory.

Laporte gave a friendly reminder that whatever France do in this competition, it does not make them favourites to lift the World Cup on home soil in the October 20 final later this year.

“If you look at the Six Nations tournament and then the All Blacks there is clearly a difference,” Laporte said. “There are the
All Blacks and then another four or five teams below them.

“Let’s not forget that we are on our way to winning the tournament and we are hoping to rediscover our dynamism with a great match against Scotland. But that will not make us World Cup favourites!”

Laporte agreed that the pressure of competition for World Cup selection may have affected the performance of some players.

“Competition [for World Cup selection] is one parameter among others to explain our defeat as is fear in a crucial match on our way to a possible Grand Slam,” he added.

However Laporte said winning the tournament was still a major priority despite their defeat.

“Despite everything I have said we are on course to win the tournament and now it just depends on us.

“We will wait until we have seen the match again on video before announcing our 22 [for the Scotland game on Saturday] on Tuesday.

“But from what we have already seen, we will not make numerous changes.”

France’s hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam were sensationally ended at Twickenham on Sunday as a makeshift England side overcame the odds.

Sixteen of those points came from 21-year-old fly-half Toby Flood, who had stepped in to replace the injured Jonny Wilkinson and done a fine job before leaving the field with a sore knee just before the hour mark.

Flood scored one of England’s two tries and World Cup winning centre Mike Tindall got the other as the English rebounded manfully from their record 43-13 hammering by Ireland a fortnight ago.

By Pierre Galy, 365 Digital 

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