Dimitri Yachvili: France are scared of losing to England

By Alan Fraser for MailOnline

Dimitri Yachvili returns to the scene of one of his most emotional triumphs consumed with fear of England.       

'We are scared to play England,' the recalled French scrum half told Sportsmail: 'We are afraid of losing, of course. England is the team we are most afraid to lose to. It would be the worst defeat of all.

Dimitri Yachvili

Sweet feeling: Dimitri Yachvili scores a try against England at the Stade de France in 2004

'England is THE game for us because of all the history in France, because of Jeanne D'Arc (Joan of Arc), all the stuff about England. And England is a very big team.'

While many a sports psychologist would disapprove of such apparently negative thinking, arguing that it might inhibit performance, Yachvili disagrees. 

'When playing rugby it is always good to be afraid of the opposition. If you are not afraid you take it too easy.'

Key man: Dimitri Yachvili

Key man: Dimitri Yachvili

Yachvili, 30, earns his 50th cap on Saturday, having replaced the much younger Morgan Parra, his principle rival for the No 9 jersey.

Yachvili is perceived to be more influential in dictating the flow of a match, particularly in the way he directs his forwards around the paddock.

But it was as a goal kicker that he broke English hearts and spirit in 2005, the last time France won at Twickenham. Yachvili kicked all six penalties in a 17-18 victory which bucked preconceptions and stereotypes.

'We did not play so well,' he recalled. 'England deserved to win. They scored two tries in the first half. But we kept working hard and putting pressure on them. We were very together, we put pressure on them and they gave away penalties. It was an English win. They play like us and we play like them. It remains a big emotional moment.'

Yachvili knows well the often elusive formula for victory on England's own territory.

'To beat England at Twickenham, you have to reach a higher level. You have to consume the English, you have to win the physical challenge, the combat, the conquest. You have to be aggressive but also remain loose and uplifted. You even have to be better than them in pure rugby terms.'

Whereas England and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere teams tend to look to the fly half for tactical direction, France expect their scrum halves to be the mastermind and to establish the rhythm of the contest.

Yachvili will be the key man for France even before you count how many penalty kicks he pops between these famous Twickenham posts.

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