Traditional rivals England and France face off in Perth tonight in the second of a Rugby League World Cup European double-header, following what effectively shapes as a dead-rubber between Wales and Ireland.
French coach Aurélien Cologni wants his team to focus on the small details in the must-win game.
They need to beat England by 16 points to reach the quarterfinals after Group A rivals Lebanon overachieved in a 34-0 loss to Australia on Saturday night – an unlikely equation by any stretch of the imagination, even in the wake of the boilovers Week 3 has produced already.
“We just focus on the little things that will make the difference at the end,” Cologni told Commentary Box Sports.
“It’s like (against) Australia – a great first half, but after that the individual defence was poor, we missed too many tackles. We work had on this and make the effort, as the difference can be in defence.
“On the weekend, the boys feel like they can do the same as last year (when France pushed England until the last 20 minutes). You need to start in the best position you can, and finish half time in the best position you can too.”
Cologni has introduced 19-year-old Lucas Albert to partner skipper Theo Fages in the halves. Albert is another exciting young talent – he plays for the Catalans Dragons in the Super League – and the coach is keen to see how he performs against England.
“I wanted to see him in this position for 80 minutes,” Cologni said.
“He made a great job of uniting teams before in France. I think he is able to ‘drive the bus’ for us with Theo Fages – it could be a good combination for us. I want to test that for the future.”
Despite heading into their final pool match 0-2, France’s spirited performances in a 29-18 loss to Lebanon and a 52-6 defeat at the hands of the Kangaroos have impressed onlookers.
And Cologni is happy with 23-year-old Fages’ progress as a leader and admits he is building for the 2021 World Cup already.
“(Rémi) Casty was the captain and one of the more experienced players we’ve got,” the coach explained.
“We lost seven players and Vincent Duport was the vice captain from last year in Avignon. So we focus on the next World Cup too and the standards we need to bring for the future.”
Meanwhile England are looking for a better all-round performance after a scrappy 29-10 win over Lebanon last week.
Captain Sean O’Loughlin wants his side to improve in the lead-in to the quarter-finals, where they are likely to face the regard Papua New Guinea side in Melbourne.
“I think the Australia game it was disappointing not to get the result, but the performance was reasonably good and it was probably a little bit vice versa in the second game,” he said.
“This week it’s about getting the win, but also improving our performance.”