VIDEO: France eyeing Boks in 'Final'
REACTION: France coach Fabien Galthie said his team is focused on playing another “World Cup final” after securing their place in the knock-out stages with an eight-try thumping of Italy on Friday.
The tournament hosts completed a perfect pool stage record with their 60-7 thrashing of a team who ran them close less than eight months ago in the Six Nations.
France are widely expected to face reigning champions South Africa in the quarterfinals next weekend, but could face world number one Ireland, or even Scotland.
And having already overcome one of the pre-tournament favourites in New Zealand in their opening Pool A match, Galthie said every game from now on will be like a Final.
“Having played one World Cup Final against New Zealand in the opening match, now we have another one,” the coach said.
“I’m delighted to have stamped this qualification but our next appointment is on Sunday [October 15] and is another World Cup Final.”
Galthie would not be drawn on who he either expects to face or would like to face, nor was he prepared to say much about any potential opponents.
For him, it is the occasion that matters more than the challenge presented by the specific opponents.
“On one side [of the draw], the reigning world champions and on the other side, the world number one team,” said Galthie.
“The draw did its job, now it’s up to us to do ours.”
This victory was secured off the back of a dominant pack that routinely softened up Italy’s defence before allowing the scintillating French backs to exploit gaps out wide.
Seven of France’s eight tries were scored by backs, but every time it was the work of the forwards that made it possible.
“The breakdown was successful, likewise the scrum, line-out, attack and defence. These were areas that were very positive,” said Galthie.
“We put Italy under permanent pressure in that respect.”
For Italy, this was a second humbling in the space of seven days against fellow Tier 1 teams they are supposed to be able to rival.
But after last week’s 96-17 hammering by New Zealand- their biggest defeat since 1999 – before they joined the Six Nations – this trouncing was their biggest-ever defeat to France and 45th in 48 clashes.
(Continue below …)
Italy lacking ‘power’
For Azzurri head coach Kieran Crowley, the main difference between the sides was one simple element: power.
“You’ve got to have power, that’s it,” said the Kiwi.
“You look at New Zealand, you look at France, you look at South Africa. Our guys gave everything they’ve got but teams at the top international level play a power game.
“We’re just lacking a bit in that. You’ve got to play to your strengths and today we tried to play to our strengths but we gave away 17 penalties.”
Italy’s frustrated captain Michele Lamaro acknowledged that he and his team-mates had simply lost the physical battle.
“In rugby, if you don’t manage to get the basics right, nothing works,” said the flanker.
“There’s no magic solution that makes a game turn your way.
“If you don’t manage to meet the physical challenge, you don’t manage in this sport.
“We lost the physical battle and that’s the foundation. Without that, you can do what you want but you won’t be able to produce your game.
“And today, France gave us a huge lesson.”