There's plenty of comment this morning over the rather unusual selections by French rugby coach Marc Lievremont for Saturday night's clash with New Zealnd in Auckland. But is it surprising that the French have a less-than-full-strength side for this Pool A clash? Not since Saturday night it's not.
Ireland's upset win over Australia has potentially turned RWC 2011 into a classic Northern versus Southern Hemisphere contest. Barring any more upsets in pool play, there will be four teams from the north on one side of the draw, and four teams from the south on the other. It's looking highly likely that RWC's two most winning teams, South Africa and Australia (how it grates to type that!) will meet in the quarter-finals.
We certainly don't approve of teams throwing matches. But now that the Wallabies are likely to miss the side of the draw that the French would be consigned to if they lost to New Zealand on Saturday, we can understand why Lievremont might want to keep his powder dry until the knock-out phase. He would certainly prefer his chances of beating the likes of England, Ireland and Wales on the way to another RWC final than facing the likes of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
So let's look at Lievremont's quirky selections as a back-handed compliment to the quality of southern hemisphere rugby, then let's hope the All Blacks really deal to Lievremont's men on Saturday night, and again in October should the two teams happen to meet in a match that really matters.