France wary of breakdown change

Vincent Clerc believes France will struggle under the new breakdown law interpretations against the Springboks this Saturday.

In the Boks’ 20-13 defeat in Toulouse last year, France dominated the breakdown with greater physicality. The home team set the tone after lock Bakkies Botha was forced off with a bloodied face in the opening stages of the match.

The Boks struggled to counter the breakdown onslaught and conceded several turnovers. They were also penalised regularly at the tackle point and that ill-discipline cost the visitors as Julien Dupuy and Morgan Parra’s penalty goals were significant in the French victory.

In this weekend’s clash, however, France wing Clerc believes it will be a different scenario under the current breakdown law interpretations.

‘It will be hard for us to adapt to the new law interpretations. There will be less turnovers and the attacking team will be able to hold on to the ball more,’ Clerc told keo.co.za.

‘It will benefit both sides on attack but I think we will struggle to adapt on defence. Last year we managed to get many turnovers against the Boks but it will be much harder now. They will be able to hold on to possession and drive the ball up. This makes the breakdown an important part of the game.’

After the disappointing end-of-year tour last year, many pundits used fatigue after a long season as an excuse for the Boks’ poor results. Clerc believes the situation will be reversed.

‘For France, the international season is coming to an end while for the Boks, it is only the beginning,’ he said.

‘The fitness levels of the players might be different now because of that, but I still think it will be a great match. The tackling intensity and physicality between the two teams should still be great.’

By Gareth Duncan, in Cape Town