“It’s a special game. We are French. The press and the TV talks to us about ‘le Crunch’. It’s certainly a stand-out match”
Flanker Charles Ollivon says France are a little apprehensive about taking on an in-form England side on Saturday, but he believes the match will give Les Bleus a good idea of where they stand heading into the Rugby World Cup knockout stages.
The French were hammered 44-8 by England in the Six Nations earlier this year, and although they have already qualified for the quarter-finals with three Pool C wins, their performances have been far from convincing.
Openside flanker Ollivon has started two of those matches – tight 23-21 wins over Argentina and Tonga – but he has never previously faced the English.
“It’s a special game. We are French. The press and the TV talks to us about ‘le Crunch’. It’s certainly a stand-out match,” he said.
“We will know where we are then, certainly. There is no better gauge than playing England when they are at this level,” he said yesterday.
“I don’t know if we can talk about fear but it’s OK to mention it, because it’s important to enter the field with a little apprehension: it allows you to dig deep. We need to play as well as we can to see where we really are.”
Saturday’s match will decide the winners of Pool C, who will face the second-placed side in Pool D in the quarter-finals the following week.
With Wales in prime position to beat Australia to the top spot in Pool D, there have been suggestions that it might be better for France to lose and avoid the twice world champion Wallabies.
Fullback Maxime Medard scoffed at that idea, however.
“Wales or Australia, it won’t change a thing. They are both better than us. England are currently two or three levels above us. We have to do all we can to put our game in place, do some good things and build confidence ahead of the quarter-final,” he said.
“We have no preference over who we play next, there is no choice. We’re not going to throw the match. We are in an important competition.
“We will dig deep to win.”
While accepting that France have not yet hit their stride in Japan, Medard suggested Les Bleus are at their best when their backs are against the wall.
“For a few years the French team has had a hard time,” he said. “In the three pool games, that was perhaps obvious. In the first match against Argentina, there were many problems but it was vital to win it.”