2011 Four Nations berth at stake for France

France skipper Olivier Elima has been stressing the importance of Saturday’s winner-takes-all Alitalia European Cup clash with Wales at Albi to his charges.

Not only is the trophy at stake, after both sides defeated Scotland and Ireland in the preceding weeks, but qualification for the 2011 Four Nations tournament is also on the line.

“It is obviously an extremely important game for France and French Rugby League, we all feel this,” he said. “We really need this victory. I am trying to emphasise the importance of this match to the other players, without putting undue pressure on them as it would be more of a hindrance than a help.

“I know the value of this team and I have confidence in each and every player. We are all heading in the same direction, wanting the same goal. I am comforted in the knowledge that everyone will be giving his all, we have to finish this tournament on a high.

"The spectators who have come to support us at each and every match are so important to us. The passion for French rugby league has a serious influence on the players.”

While the Tricolours were impressive sweeping aside Ireland in the opening week, they were pushed all the way by Scotland in Albi last Saturday but Elima feels that it was a valuable workout.

“Above all, the important thing was to win and that was achieved," he said. "On a defensive level we only conceded two tries although they could have been avoided. We tried to work harder on the wings because during our match against Ireland we had been very lax in those areas.”

He is also aware of where France need to improve against Iestyn Harris’ men.

“We did not complete our sets, we made too many handling errors due to lack of concentration," Elima said. "We made life too difficult for ourselves unnecessarily, by not consolidating our strong points we rarely put the opposition in danger. It's frustrating as it would not have taken much more to produce a match of superior quality.

“We need to continue to work with intensity and enthusiasm - both characteristics of this French side. The front row has a massive job up the middle and Jamal Fakir's return won't do us any harm.

"We still must improve and perfect our passing and complete our sets, make fewer mistakes and basically try and play the ball in their half.”

Bradford-bound Elima has earmarked Wales’ strengths to his side.

“Vastly experienced Lee Briers is the chief organiser of the Welsh team," he said. "He has an excellent kicking game and we are going to have to make sure he cannot get into our half. When they played Scotland, Briers was the player behind many of the Welsh tries.

"His very presence at the heart of the Welsh team gives his team mates lots of confidence. Also, let's not forget Gareth Thomas, star of Crusaders. The stakes are so high for these players also, they are going to come out all guns blazing.”

But skipper Elima is determined that the trophy should be in French hands come late Saturday afternoon.