October 5, 2019 / 12:29 PM / 18 days ago

Rugby-Wounded France will not hold back against Tonga, says Poirot

KUMAMOTO, Japan, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Despite being hit by World Cup-ending injuries to four players, France will not be dodging any physical challenge when they take on beefy Tonga on Sunday, according to stand-in captain Jefferson Poirot.

Fullback Thomas Ramos and hooker Peato Mauvaka were ruled out of the World Cup on Friday, following the earlier exits of prop Demba Bamba and winger Wesley Fofana.

The rising injury count has stretched France’s resources as they manage a quick turnaround between games but prop Poirot said it would not change how they approached the game.

“We know about our opponents’ physicality, their aggressiveness,” Poirot, France’s third captain from three pool games in Japan, told reporters at Kumamoto Stadium on Saturday.

“If we can match them on that front, we’ll have more chances to play our game.

“The worst thing would be to tell ourselves we’ve had injuries and that we have to protect ourselves. That idea isn’t in anyone’s head.

“We have to attack them, make ground. We have to remember that from our match against Fiji. If you’re not in it, what can you expect? I think everybody’s ready for that.”

Three-times finalists France were upset 21-14 by the Fijians at home last November, their first ever loss to the Pacific islanders.

They will also hope to avoid a repeat of their shock loss to Tonga during the pool phase at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, the tournament’s biggest stunner.

France recovered from that loss, however, to reach the final and lose it by a point to the All Blacks.

Only fullback Maxime Medard remains from the team that was pilloried by fans and media in the aftermath of the Tonga shock.

“It’s a difficult memory but that defeat allowed us to reach the final,” he told reporters.

“We came up against a rugged team who were difficult to play and who played the perfect game to get the win. We were lucky to get out of our pool.”

Medard said that was all history now.

“I don’t want to talk about that match. It was another team, another, different kind of rugby,” he added.

“We’re quite a young team. We are carefree. I don’t want to talk about that match — I would rather make positive statements and go forwards.”

Undefeated from their pool matches against Argentina and United States, France are second in Pool C and can book their place in the quarter-finals with victory over Argentina. (Reporting by Ian Ransom in Oita, Japan; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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