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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Semi will not be violent - Sella
By Mark Orlovac
BBC Sport in Paris

Philippe Sella
Sella earned 111 caps for France
Philippe Sella believes the World Cup semi-final between England and France will not descend into the violence that marred the 1991 game between the sides.

Sella was in the French team beaten 19-10 by England in a stormy match 16 years ago, but the centre says history will not be repeated.

"Saturday will be totally different," Sella told BBC Sport.

"Both teams will want to win but they will respect the rules much more. Rugby has changed in the last few years."

That 1991 quarter-final at the Parc des Princes will go down as one of the most brutal games in World Cup history.

The match, which ended up being the last for legendary full-back Serge Blanco, saw England's forwards physically dominate the French pack.

Blanco was also the target of some rough treatment and, in frustration, he laid out England wing Nigel Heslop with a punch.

England's plan worked and tries from Rory Underwood and Will Carling sealed a famous 19-10 victory.

Nigel Heslop
Heslop receives treatment after being punched by Serge Blanco

"I remember it was very tense before the match, and not just because we were playing England," added Sella.

"We had no-one in charge of the French Federation at the time and while England had been together for years, we were a new team.

"It was a very violent game, probably the most violent I've been involved in.

"I remember Peter Winterbottom doing a few bad things but it was the same on our side. Nobody was whiter than white.

"It was horrible to lose at the Parc des Princes without playing well."

Sella, who earned 111 caps for his country, believes that a healthy respect between the two teams means there will not be a repeat of that 1991 battle.

"The players meet so much more often now both internationally and in competitions like the Heineken Cup," he said.

"There's more player movement between the two countries as well. Saturday's game will be very aggressive but not violent.

France know that if they want to win, they have to be good on the basics

Philippe Sella
"There will always be rivalry between England and France but there's a lot of respect between them."

Both England and France reached the last four with impressive victories last weekend.

England overpowered the Australian pack in Marseille while France stunned tournament favourites New Zealand in Cardiff.

And Sella says that the French victory will have prepared them for the physical challenge that lies ahead at the Stade de France.

"I was impressed by the England pack, even though Australia's forwards are not the same as New Zealand or France," said Sella.

606: DEBATE
"But France also played well last weekend and I'm sure it will be a good thing for them to have overcome a great pack in the build-up to this game.

"France had a big challenge against the All Blacks but it's better to have had that rather than to have played a pack that wasn't very good.

"They will now be focused. France know that if they want to win, they have to be good on the basics - scrums, rucks, line-outs and re-starts."

And as to whether France can draw inspiration from their two summer wins over England, Sella said: "Everything is different, this is not a warm-up - it's the semi-final of a World Cup."



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