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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK
Les Bleus left feeling blue
If there was a school report on the French rugby team's performances in past World Cups, it would probably read 'flamboyant but frustrating'.

Perhaps the tournament which underlined their ability to amaze and disappoint came in 1999.

After winning all three group matches - against Canada, Namibia and Fiji - they faced quarter-final opponents Argentina in what was a try-fest.

WORLD CUP RECORD
France celebrate their semi-final win over New Zealand in 1999
Played 22 - W:17 D:1 L:4
1987: Runners up
1991: Quarter-finals
1995: Third
1999: Runners up
It seemed as if France were going to cruise through to the semis after taking a 17-0 lead thanks to tries from Xavier Carbajosa and winger Philippe Bernat-Salles.

But Argentina then staged a remarkable comeback, and at one point found themselves just four points behind their European rivals with the scores at 30-26.

Then Bernat-Salles and Carbajosa added to their tally and France's to put the result beyond reach.

The next game proved to be France's finest hour and arguably one of the greatest performances seen at the Rugby World Cup.

Their opponents New Zealand were favourites to land the world crown and were expected to make it to the final with relative ease.

The All Blacks found themselves with a 14-point lead just after the break.

It seemed as if the only way Jonah Lomu and company would lose the match was if the French produced a remarkable comeback or if the New Zealand defence folded.

The main instigator of the revival was fly-half Christophe Lamaison who scored 23 second-half points.

And then Philippe Bernat-Salles landed the killer blow by going over with moments remaining.

But during the final it appeared France had spent their energies in the previous game.

A scrappy encounter against Australia ended with the Wallabies winning 35-12.

France kept killing the play in a performance which was in stark contrast to the fluent movements seen in the contest against New Zealand.

Les Blues' other final appearance came in 1987 against home favourites New Zealand, in the inaugural World Cup.

After seeing off Australia, 30-24, in what was a thrilling semi-final encounter, the All Blacks stood in their way between defeat and glory.

Unfortunately in front of the predominantly partisan Auckland crowd, France folded.

Tries from open-side Michael Jones, scrum-half David Kirk and wing John Kirwan and clean kicking from Grant Fox, proved too much for Daniel Dubroca's side as New Zealand cruised through to a 29-9 win.

France also reached the quarter-final in 1991 and grabbed third spot at the expense of England in 1995.





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