France head coach Richard Agar has named his 19 man squad to play New Zealand at Parc des Sport on Friday (20:00)
Olivier Elima believes that coming through a tough match against Papua New Guinea in their opening Rugby League World Cup 2013 fixture has readied France for their next group game, against defending champions New Zealand at Parc des Sports, Avignon, on Friday (8.00pm).
The French forward believes that being beaten by the USA in their only RLWC2013 warm-up match was a wakeup call for his side, whose hard work since has paid dividends as France came out on top in a close game against PNG at Craven Park, Hull, last Sunday.
“It was very tough against PNG,” said Elima. “We were talking about the arm wrestle we would have in the game and that is what happened. But credit to the boys, we were strong out there and we had a strong defence up the middle.
“It was like playing against trees. You get one and then you get the other ones coming even quicker and harder at you. We knew what they were going to do, that is exactly their style of play.
“They kept coming and we kept defending until at the end they started to tire and lost some balls so we were able to start winning some field position and I think that is where we won the game.”
Elima feels that since the USA defeat, the French team has pulled together, resulting in a complete mental attitude shift within the squad, which he thinks will help France as they look ahead to playing New Zealand on Friday night.
“It was probably a good thing losing to the USA, it gave us a kick up the backside,” said Elima. “We just worked really hard on what we did wrong there.
“Every time we come in off the pitch having done good things we do high fives and you can really see the positive side of the French team. In the past, when bad things have happened, we have put our heads down but now that is gone.
“We have done some bad things in the PNG game and kept thinking positive – that was a big change for us and it showed in the hard times in the game, like in the second half, but we kept working and I was really proud of the boys.
“We are looking at the video of the New Zealand and Samoa game because they are our next opponents in Avignon.
“It is going to be a sell out in the stadium and it is a big part of the history of Rugby League in France. Just having a World Cup game in France, with a sell-out game in Avignon, it is just massive, and we are playing the world champions, what else can you ask for?”
There are no tickets left for the New Zealand v France Group B match at Par des Sports, Avignon. However there are still some available for France’s final group game versus Samoa at Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan. Tickets are being sold through our French partners, so to purchase your ticket, from as little as €16, visit www.eticketing.co.uk/rlwc/.
France team to take on New Zealand