Well, it was only a matter of time before one Frenchman came out with the classic line about hating the English as the fever builds for this weekend’s wonderful clash between England and France at Twickenham. And up steps France coach Marc Lievremont to stoke the fires. I think Martin Johnson will have seen it coming.
Five days before the two sides (the only two unbeaten sides in this year’s RBS 6 Nations) meet Lievremont said: “We don’t like them and it’s better to say that than be hypocritical. We have a bit of trouble with the English. We respect them – well in my case at least I respect them. But you couldn’t say we have the slightest thing in common with them.
“We appreciate our Italian cousins with whom we share the same quality of life. We appreciate the Celts and their conviviality and then among all these nations we have one huge thing in common. We all don’t like the English.
Lievremont’s comments echo those of England lock Tom Palmer last week accepted his side were widely hated – a sentiment reinforced by the man looking to derail their Six Nations campaign this weekend.
“We beat Ireland yet left Dublin with the encouragement of all the Irish who said ‘for pity’s sake, beat the English’. With the Scots, it’s the same thing. It is also what gives you strength against the English, more than just because of rugby.”
Lievremont might dislike the English but he regards them as a threat. You only had to see how France closed the game down in Paris a year ago to seal the Grand Slam to know that.
He added: “We are also very aware, in terms of planning and preparation, that the English are already in 2011 World Cup mode. We can feel that all of the English players are physically on a different level. This insular country, who always drape themselves in the national flag, their hymns, their chants, their traditions. They are people who one regards as a very proud people.”