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Saturday, October 2, 1999 Published at 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK

France survive Canadian scares

France's Christophe Dominici tries to evade the attentions of Winston Stanley

France 33-20 Canada

France began their Rugby World Cup campaign with victory - but their unsung Canadian opponents matched the European giants for long periods in Beziers.

The home side will be happy to claim three points against their toughest rivals in Pool C, but they did little to suggest they have overcome their recent problems.

So poor has the French form been since claiming the Grand Slam in 1998 - culminating in a shock summer defeat by Tonga - that their chances of winning the World Cup have been virtually written off.

But any hopes Raphal Ibanez's team had that they might prove their title ambitions were given a jolt by Canada.

[ image: Painful blow: Thomas Castaignede is tackled by opposite number Gareth Rees]
Painful blow: Thomas Castaignede is tackled by opposite number Gareth Rees
The north American outfit gave their illustrious opponents a thorough examination - and the French defence faltered on a number of occasions in the face of routine Canadian assaults.

Both teams suffered injuries to their fly-halves and most influential players, Thomas Castaignede and Gareth Rees.

Castaignede wrenched a shoulder as he tried to bring down Canadian prop Rob Snow - but he battled on and although short of his best form, he popped up to score the match-winning try in the second half.

The injury blow for Canada proved even worse. Captain Rees, who became the only player to take part in all four World Cups, had to be replaced by Bobby Ross with the 32-year-old clearly feeling a right knee injury that had almost kept him out of the match.

Glas smashes through

After Rees and Richard Dourthe exchanged early penalties, France scored their first try of the tournament in the 16th minute.

Wing Stephan Glas ran onto a cheeky grubber kick from Xavier Garbajosa to touch down in the corner.

[ image: Influential French No.8 Christophe Juillet shrugs off a Canadian tackle]
Influential French No.8 Christophe Juillet shrugs off a Canadian tackle
But any hopes the French had that the try would see them stamp their authority were dashed when Canada took a shock lead after 32 minutes.

The Canadians mounted a concerted period pressure - but there seemed to be no danger when scrum-half Morgan Williams picked the ball up from a ruck on the 22.

But the French defence simply evaporated and Williams was able to waltz in to score under the posts.

The try came as a body blow to French, but they resumed the lead through a Dourthe penalty and a superb try from Olivier Magne in the last minute of the first half.

Canada lost the ball in midfield and a swift counter-attack from France saw play sweep across the field to Magne, one of the most mobile flankers in the world game, in the right-wing position.

He collected the ball, skillfully side-stepped his marker and raced over the line.

Canucks hit back

Canada began the second half in determined manner and were unlucky not to score when Scott Bryan dropped the ball just before the line.

But they were soon rewarded for their efforts when some quick-thinking from Williams brought him his second try.

The scrum-half took a quick tap penalty deep into French penalty, kicked through the static defence and touched down at the second attempt. The try was given by referee Brian Campsall, despite French complaints that Williams had knocked the ball on.

The French lead was now just point, but once again the home side hit back.

With 61 minutes gone Castaignede, normally the archetypal flair back, somehow found himself in the midst of a powerful French forward drive and he snatched the ball from his bullish team mates and claimed the glory of the try.

The win was wrapped up two minutes from time when flying winger Emile Ntamack proved his fitness by racing in to finish a flowing move - with Castaignede again influential - in the right-hand corner after coming on as a replacement.


France: Mola, Garbajosa, Dourthe, Glas, Dominici, T Castaignede, Mignoni, Califano, Ibanez, Tournaire, Benazzi, Pelous, Lievremont, Magne, Juillet.

Replacements: N'Tamack, Lamaison, S Castaignede, Mallier, Brouzet, Soulette, Dal Maso.

Canada: Stewart, Stanley, Lougheed, Bryan, Smith, Rees, Williams, Snow, Dunkley, Thiel, Tait, James, Hutchison, Baugh, Charron.

Replacements: Nicholls, Ross, Graf, Schmid, Banks, Cardinal, Bice.

Referee: Brian Campsall (England)

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Rugby World Cup 1999
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