What the French papers are saying ahead of Saturday's Test at the Stade de France.
Predictably, the French sports pages are dominated by coverage of Tuesday night's football World Cup qualifier between France and Ukraine, which the hosts won 3-0 to book their place at next year's tournament in Brazil. There's very little rugby, with L'Equipe running two stories relating to Saturday's Test in Paris, and Le Parisien just the one.
Springbok scrum consultant Pieter de Villiers held two press conferences on Tuesday: the first in English, and the second in French. De Villiers, who represented France in 69 Tests, speaks the language fluently, and sat with French journalists for 30 minutes after the main conference. It was clear who the locals had come to see.
It's little surprise that he is the focus of L'Equipe's big rugby story. In 'La France a beaucoup de passion et de fierté' (France has a lot of passion and pride), De Villiers tells the newspaper what South Africa are expecting in terms of scrummaging and physicality at the gainline. Interestingly, in a sidebar describing the former international prop, the newspaper has listed De Villiers's nationality as French.
'L'espirit de synthèse' (The spirit of synthesis), reads the headline on the adjacent page. The article discusses France coach Philippe Saint-André's trimming of the squad to 23, and who will be the key men against South Africa. Lock Yoann Maestri, who was red-carded for his part in a punch-up last week (before being cleared of any misconduct), as well as loose forward and captain Thierry Dusautoir are listed as crucial to the physical battle. Wesley Fofana is also expected to front up to the big South Africans in midfield.
'Les Boks, ça vaut les Blacks' says the headline in Le Parisien, with a picture of Richie McCaw and Jean de Villiers. The paper feels that the Boks are in the same class as the All Blacks, and that France will have a tough task on their hands come Saturday. The Boks' recent record, the power of their pack, and the fact that a number of players now feature in French club competitions are all listed as advantages.
By Jon Cardinelli
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