French coach Laurent Frayssinous is warning his players against a Samoan backlash as the sides showdown for a Rugby League World Cup quarter-final place in Warrington.
Toa Samoa went down 60-6 to hosts England in the tournament opener but rebounded to swat aside the challenge of Greece, who France beat 34-12, by a whooping 68 points in Doncaster.
And former Catalans coach Frayssinous can’t wait to see how his side shape up against a team packed with NRL talent in a winner takes all showdown for a last-eight spot.
“In terms of Samoa’s performance (against England) I think they had a day off – simple as that,” he said.
“When analysing their team, everybody knows the quality of their players – they have NRL players playing at the top of the best competition in the world.
“They demonstrated the response you would want as a coach against Greece and they’ll be looking for the same against us.
“We can’t wait to play against teams from the top nations. We want the challenge and that will show us the level of where we are at the moment.”
Frayssinous has been boosted with the news that skipper Benjamin Garcia should be closer to full fitness after playing against England while still recovering from an infected cut that meant he was dealing with a fever in the build-up to the encounter.
Perhaps just as important is the return of Fouad Yaha on the wing, with the Dragons standout having missed the defeat to England.
Meanwhile, Samoa welcome back Anthony Milford from suspension after he missed the win over Greece, leaving Matt Parish with a decision over whether to stick with Chanel Harris-Tavita alongside Jarome Luai.
This is the fifth meeting between these sides, with Samoa winning their last three, including a 22-6 World Cup victory in Perpignan nine years ago.
France will host the Rugby League World Cup for the first time since 1972 in three years’ time but, ranked ninth in the world, it’s over half a century since they last made the final, exiting five years ago at the group stage without a win.
— Fédération Française de Rugby XIII (@FFRXIII) October 30, 2022
For St Helens assistant Frayssinous this World Cup remains a long-term project, laying the foundations for the future, which looks a lot brighter considering the number of Super League stars now at his disposal.
“We know the level we are playing at, we are realistic,” he added.
“We are learning all the time from games like this, in the next few years, with more experience, these matches against the top nations are going to be a lot closer.”
With eight NRL Grand Finalists from Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers at his disposal, Samoa coach Parish knows the implications of failing to make the knockout stages.
But his star player is not fazed.
“That England game is firmly in the past now, we were pretty sour of it but we responded the very next day,” said Eels prop Junior Paulo, who assisted five tries to help Samoa put Greece to the sword.
“We’ve reviewed and moved on and it was so much better against Greece and it will need to be better again against France.
“This is a campaign, you need to move fast from one match to the next. The performance and response from the team shows what we can do.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets