Wednesday, September 19, 2007

France just a blip on McCaw's radar

A quarterfinal against France is firmly on the All Blacks' World Cup flight path but captain Richie McCaw says the prospect is one he won't even consider for another two weeks.

Ireland's miserable form so far in the "group of death" -- pool D -- points to them missing out on the quarterfinals unless they can restore their mojo in a huge way for remaining games against France and Argentina.

Dreadfully inadequate in beating lightweights Namibia (32-17) and Georgia (14-10), Ireland will struggle to quell an improving France in their hugely anticipated match at Paris on Saturday morning (NZ time).

If Ireland were to prevail, the hosts would be eliminated, and it would result in Argentina and Ireland battling it out for first and second a week later.

However, a French victory would see Les Bleus probably finish second in the pool. That would mean a trip to Cardiff and a likely quarterfinal against short-priced pool C favourites New Zealand.

The only thing to prevent that tumultuous scenario -- the hosts against the tournament hot-shots on neutral soil -- would be if Ireland transformed in their final pool game and beat Argentina in Paris on September 30 while scoring four tries for a bonus point.

McCaw confessed surprise at Ireland's lacklustre form but the question line today was more about how the resurgent French were shaping up two weeks out from the quarterfinals.

France's drab 12-17 loss to Argentina in the tournament opener was followed by a rollicking 87-10 defeat of Namibia which left some media outlets here close to raptures.

McCaw said France had clearly reviewed their playing style, which now made them dangerous foes.

"I don't think the French are too far off," he said.

"Against Namibia they showed they're prepared to use the ball. They're still going to be a threat at this tournament.

"They got lured into playing a different sort of game against the Argentinians so you can't read too much into that."

It would be all hands to the pump if France emerged as quarterfinal opposition, McCaw said.

"If that happened, we'd just get on with it," he said.

"All those three games are going to be important and tough, no matter what. You've got to win them all."

McCaw said any games he watched live on television were from the point of view of a spectator, such as the "interesting" tournament opener.

The analysis of opponents would only begin when the playoff draw was confirmed.

"In terms of watching games because of who we might play, you wait until the week you're going to play them and watch what you need to watch, rather than the whole game," he said.

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