Discontent has raged through the French camp, particularly in the aftermath of last Sunday’s 19-14 loss to Tonga, following which head coach Marc Lievremont said his squad had “never got off the bus”. He was referring to the revolt by the France football team at the World Cup in South Africa.
But now France, having scraped into the knockout stages as Pool A runners-up to New Zealand, will take on perennial rivals England, Pool B winners with four wins from four matches, with a semi-final place at stake.
Harinordoquy — one of two changes to the side announced by Lievremont, with tighthead prop Nicolas Mas also included — insisted the trouble is now behind the squad and the focus is on the Eden Park clash.
He said: “It’s a big match always against England. It’s always a very, very intense match, a lot of fight. There’s not a lot of difference in the score at the end. Now I don’t think the pressure is on our shoulders. We didn’t play very well, we are in the quarter-final. We have it all to do to win this match. I hope the competition will begin for us on Saturday.”
Lievremont resisted wholesale changes and believes Harinordoquy can be an example for his squad.
The head coach said: “Imanol has shown a great deal of commitment off the bench. He was champing at the bit without saying anything when he didn’t play, even though he felt frustrated.”
Lievremont has retained Morgan Parra, normally a scrum-half, at fly-half for the match.
FRANCE (v England, Saturday, 8.30am): M Medard, V Clerc, A Rougerie, M Mermoz, A Palisson, M Parra, D Yachvili; JB Poux, W Servat, N Mas, P Pape, L Nallet, T Dusautoir (capt), J Bonnaire, I Harinordoquy.
Replacements: D Szarzewski, F Barcella, J Pierre, L Picamoles, F Trinh-Duc, D Marty, C Heymans.