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France edge past Pumas, Johnson's England off to a flyer

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-11

France finally got the better of Argentina in a gritty game Saturday, with David Skrela helping the hosts to a 12-6 victory. Meanwhile, Martin Johnson's career as England coach got off to a flyer as the Red Rose thumped the Pacific Islanders 39-13.

David Skrela scored all of France's points to see them to a gritty but welcome victory over their bogey team Argentina in a 12-6 win here on Saturday.
The Toulouse fly-half kicked a drop goal and three penalties while Argentina, who had beaten the hosts in six of their last seven matches including twice at the World Cup last year, relied on two penalties from captain Felipe Contepomi.
France coach Marc Lievremont said that it was an important victory for the French.
"I will obviously remember this victory," said the former France backrow forward, who was part of the team beaten by Australia in the 1999 World Cup final.
"It was really important after three successive defeats to them. We are not delighted but we are satisfied. We will try and score tries in our next match (against the Pacific Islands next Saturday)."
Man of the match Louis Picamoles admitted it had been hard graft but said a win was a win whatever the spectacle had been like for the spectators.
"Playing Argentina is always a tough call and one knows that one will have to work hard for the victory but we got the result tonight," said Picamoles.
"Obviously, one wants to win impressively but for us this was a good result. We will still have to work on things next week so we can improve against the Pacific Islands (who lost 39-13 to England earlier on Saturday)."
France opened the scoring in the 13th minute through Skrela as he dropped a goal from 20 metres - just minutes after the Argentinians had missed a penalty through Contepomi.
The Argentinians were not playing fluently at all in the first-half, Contepomi's rare miss with the penalty evidence of that, and when Juan Martin Hernandez drilled a clearing kick straight into touch just after the 20 minute mark, the player known as the 'Magic Man' said it all with the shake of his head.
However, they did draw level in the 28th minute when French No 8 Louis Picamoles was penalised by referee Jonathan Kaplan and Contepomi this time took his opportunity.
Skrela, though, restored the hosts three-point lead a minute later with a finely-taken penalty and extended it in the 33rd minute with a superb one from long distance.
Contepomi had rediscovered his kicking touch and landed a stunning penalty from wide out on the left four minutes from the half-time whistle to keep the Pumas well in contact.
The second-half yielded little for the first 15 minutes or so save that rather surprisingly captain Lionel Nallet was replaced by France's iconic figure from the 2007 World Cup Sebastien Chabal - shortly before centre Benoit Baby missed a kickable penalty.
Chabal was relieved to at last have recorded a victory over the Pumas. "It was complicated but we got there in the end against a tough side," said Chabal.
"Victory is important but we can play better. However, we will take pleasure out of it."
Both sides battered away at each other for the rest of the half but found little leeway in breaking through either team's defences save for a final minute penalty from Skrela.


Martin Johnson's England spells dawn of new era


Martin Johnson has stoked old rivalries by suggesting England might find Australia an "easier" proposition than the Pacific Islanders.
In their first game under England's 2003 World Cup-winning captain, last year's losing finalists saw off the Islanders, the cream of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, 39-13 here at Twickenham.
Now the seemingly sterner challenge of the Wallabies, 30-20 winners away to Italy, also on Saturday, awaits at Twickenham this coming weekend.
But Johnson, who led England to World Cup glory against Australia in Sydney five years ago, said familiarity with the Wallabies - beaten 12-10 by the Red Rose in the quarter-finals last year - would be a help to his team.
"The Pacific Islanders were a dangerous team to play. I was asked if I'd considered losing to them, because they are dangerous.
"It may be easier to play Australia than the Pacific Islanders, because we can have a good look at them and know what they're about," the England manager added. "But the tempo and intensity next week will be higher."
Johnson fielded a starting XV against the Islanders featuring four debutants with New Zealand-born hooker Dylan Hartley coming off the bench to also earn a first cap.
All the new boys made a positive impression with full-back Delon Armitage, the man-of-the-match, starring in a back three which also featured the rapid Ugo Monye.
Riki Flutey, once of New Zealand's Under-19s, was assured at inside centre while Nick Kennedy, paired alongside England captain Steve Borthwick in the second-row, produced the kind of lineout display with which the London Irish lock has made his name in the Premiership.
Kennedy also grabbed one of England's five tries with wing Paul Sackey, who touched down twice, outside-half Danny Cipriani and hooker Lee Mears also crossing the Islanders' line.
"I'm reasonably happy with that," said Johnson. "It was stop-start. That's understandable because this was our first match together and we were trying to put some things together."
"We're in a pretty good place and we're looking forward to next week."
When Johnson was England captain, then coach Clive Woodward's pre-match verbal jousts with Wallaby counterpart Eddie Jones, were a regular feature of Anglo-Australian clashes.
There wasn't as much spice at the 2007 World Cup where England were coached by Brian Ashton and John Connolly, since succeeded as Australia coach by the New Zealander Robbie Deans, was overseeing the Wallabies.
And the old sparring partners haven't stopped their outspoken remarks - even if these days it is not aimed at each other.
Woodward, now the British Olympic Association's performance director, last week delivered some thinly veiled criticisms of Rob Andrew, Johnson's boss at England's Rugby Football Union.
And Jones, currently coach of English Premiership club Saracens after a controversial stint as a consultant to reigning world champions South Africa, has been equally ready in recent times to attack his country's rugby hierarchy.

Date created : 2008-11-09