September 16, 2015 / 10:43 PM / 4 years ago

France go under the radar in lifeless Croydon

LONDON (Reuters) - France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski has played down the importance of his team’s opening Rugby World Cup Pool D game against Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.

France's Dimitri Szarzewski (L) fights for the ball with Italy's Martin Castrogiovanni during their Six Nations rugby union match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, near Paris, February 9, 2014. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

France, runners-up to New Zealand four years ago, have endured a difficult build-up to the tournament following a poor Six Nations and indifferent warm-up form.

“The first match is not necessarily the most important,” Szarzewski told reporters on Wednesday.

“You never know what can happen afterwards. But it is important to always enter the tournament well. All the games are important, but the one against Italy even more. Messing up is not an option.”

France play Romania four days later before facing Canada and Ireland.

“Having just four days will be special and we have to prepare for that. But we are not yet thinking of Romania,” Szarzewski said.

“When seeing the potential of this team, the commitment of all the guys… we really believe that we have a chance.

“I didn’t come here to simply take part in the tournament, but to lift the trophy. Everyone wants that badly.”

France lost to England in a friendly at Twickenham last month before gaining revenge in Paris.

“The friendlies against the English gave us momentum and showed that we were on the right track, even though we saw from the match against Scotland there was still quite some work to do,” Szarzewski said.

“I hope that the two weeks of hard work we put in right before the start of the tournament will prove useful.”

Hooker Guilhem Guirado admitted that his team’s preparations had been subdued in Croydon, south London.

“I don’t know about how it is in London,” he said. “But we can feel that it’s getting down to the wire, one can feel the excitement in the team.

“Four years ago, I joined the team after the preparation phase had already started. I knew about my role, even though it had not been announced explicitly. I didn’t get to play much but I gave everything I had and was very motivated. Today, I am much more experienced.

“After getting back home in 2011, I already wanted more. It was already a huge motivation for working hard to make sure I would be part of it again this time.”

Reporting by Ed Osmond, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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