Trooper Parra ready for one last battle

FRANCE fly-half Morgan Parra believes the barrage of criticism his team have faced since booking their place in the World Cup final has helped unify the squad ahead of Sunday’s showdown against favourites and tournament hosts New Zealand.

Having been comprehensively outplayed by the All Blacks and humbled by Tonga in the group stages France, whose coach Marc Lievremont has been critical of his players throughout, then snuck past England and were fortunate to benefit from a generous refereeing decision in their semi-final win against Wales.

Critics have labelled this French team as the worst side ever to contest a World Cup final, and Parra admitted the squad had been hurt by the lack of plaudits they have received.

“We felt after beating England we might have some more support,” said Parra (inset), ahead of the biggest game his nation have played since the 1987 final which saw them defeated by New Zealand at Auckland’s Eden Park. “We felt that after beating Wales [in the semi-final] we might have some more support... but yet again, it is us against the world.

“Criticism from supporters or from certain England and Wales players saying we don’t belong in the final – that hurts.”

Scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili added: “We know we will be 15 players on the pitch against all the world, maybe. We are like a family now and will have French support.”

Welsh to win for Sam

WALES fly-half James Hook insists the sense of injustice still felt following the red card Sam Warburton received in last week’s semi-final against France is a motivating factor ahead of today’s bronze medal match against Australia.

Skipper Warburton was sent off for a dangerous tip tackle on France wing Vincent Clerc during the painstaking 9-8 defeat in Auckland.

“We said at half-time during the game with France that we wanted to do it for Sam,” said Hook.

“It didn’t happen but he has been immense, not just in the World Cup but since he started playing for Wales.”