French press mourn defeat


The French press were in mourning today as they lamented France's World Cup failure while paying tribute to England's defence and the "majestic" boot of Jonny Wilkinson.

Le Journal du Dimanche was the most scathing in its condemnation of Les Bleus, who saw their attempts to land the world title on home soil ruined as England won 14-9 in last night's tense semi-final in Paris.

"The great four-year journey, with a preparation unequalled in the history of French sport, is a patent failure of which the analysis should spare no-one," it spat.

In reference to France's opening-night 17-12 defeat by Argentina, it added: "The story ends as it began, with the stadium reverberating in the language of our opponents, with a match without a (French) try.

"France came up against the world champions like a bull wearing blinkers, running into a solid white wall."

Their front-page headline was 'Infuriating', and Le Parisien  went with the same word, adding that the English "had broken the dream of a nation".

L'Equipe, the main sports daily in the country, hailed the work ethic and opportunism of England.

They also poured praise on Wilkinson, who kicked nine second-half points — six coming in the final six minutes, and Jason Robinson, whose prowess under the high ball and typical jinking runs made him the stand-out player on the pitch.

"With formidable tenacity, England waited for their time — or rather their last five minutes," it wrote.

"In their disciplined way, the white defence held off all the untidy attacking assaults of the French. It was as if they knew their moment would come.

"And it came through the surges of Robinson, who played the last few minutes here as if they were pre-ordained. And choosing to live by the boot, France finished by dying by the boot, the majestic boot — it has to be said — of Wilkinson."

Under the headline of 'Endless frustration', the paper added: "In deservedly losing to England, the hopes of Les Bleus which had sprung up after their exploits against the All Blacks in the last round were knocked down.

"They lacked the physical freshness and inspiration to erase the failure of 2003," it added, in reference to France's 24-7 defeat to England in the last World Cup.