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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 October 2007, 22:09 GMT 23:09 UK
French commitment delights Ibanez
France's players face up to the New Zealand haka
France accepted the pre-match haka challenge
French captain Rafael Ibanez paid tribute to his team's passion after their epic 20-18 win over New Zealand.

The French set the tone when they stood toe to toe with the All Blacks as they did the haka, to set up a match that will be remembered for years to come.

"We weren't trying to indulge in provocation. We have a lot of respect for the haka," said Ibanez.

"But by nailing our flags to the mast, we wanted to show how proud we were of wearing our country's colours."

Ibanez was one of four players in the French squad who had been part of the 22 that beat New Zealand in the 1999 World Cup semi-final.

And he paid tribute to the resolve showed by his team-mates.

"Every time you play New Zealand you have to play out of your skin, and that's what happened this evening," he said.

"The players really gave everything right until the end. In the World Cup, courage and team spirit can make a big difference. We played with a lot of heart.

They didn't want to die today. This team really showed a lot of guts because we weren't playing in France

French coach Bernard Laporte

"At half-time we talked very well and coach Bernard Laporte told us that at 13-3 the last 40 minutes were the most important in our lives."

Having finished as runners-up in their group, France had to travel to Cardiff to play the All Blacks.

And Laporte said that gave his side extra motivation to put on a show.

"We didn't want to play the game here in Cardiff but we had to because we lost our first game," he said.

"We had to pick ourselves up and get ourselves back in the World Cup.

"The players reacted with a lot of determination. They didn't want to die today. This team really showed a lot of guts because we weren't playing in France.

"After losing to Argentina, we suffered a lot, but tonight the response was there. We beat a great team and we want to go further.

"They have been the best team in the world for four years and were favourites for the competition, but we played with a lot of heart and I am very happy with the players."

After travelling to Wales for their quarter-final, France return to Paris for their last-four clash with England, having beaten Brian Ashton's team twice in pre-tournament warm-up games.

"Another game against England and it's not easy," said Laporte. "England are a good team and we have to prepare well."

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