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France face 'sudden death' against Lebanon

France will open their Rugby League World Cup campaign against Lebanon on Sunday and it is a match they are approaching very seriously, with captain Theo Fages treating the clash as a sudden-death contest. 

Ranked sixth in the world, France have been given the tough task of navigating their way through a pool that includes world champions Australia and rugby league heavyweights England. 

With three teams ranked among the top six rugby league nations in the world, Pool A is clearly one of the strongest groups in the competition.

But working in France's favour is the fact that three of the four teams in the pool will progress to the knockout stage of the competition. 

Assuming 21st-ranked Lebanon fail to beat the two standouts in Australia and England, a victory for France over the Cedars on Sunday would all but secure the tri-colours a spot in their second straight quarter-finals after progressing to the last eight at the 2013 World Cup. 

As well as this, an early win for France would also provide much needed confidence and belief as they head towards games against highly-fancied opposition. 

"We are going to play with passion. We have a lot of belief. We are here to play and to win. We believe we can play finals and get past the group stage," Fages said of France's World Cup chances.

"All the boys realise that we have to start well. This week's game is the main challenge for us because we know if we win then we are in with a great chance of going through to the quarter-finals." 

Even if things do not go the way of the French, their coach Aurélien Cologni would still be proud of their efforts after journeying across the world to play in a nation where rugby league is number one.

Cologni spoke with delight when asked about coaching his country in a Rugby League World Cup in Australia, comparing the occasion to one of the biggest sporting tournaments in the world. 

But he stressed his side would not be overawed by the hype, instead hoping the excitement drives them to succeed.

"We are very proud to play in Australia. In France it's like playing the World Cup of soccer in Brazil. That's what it means to us," Cologni said. 

"For us to come here and play in this competition makes us very proud, but we don't want to just sit and watch the competition. We want to be a part of it and show that France can play rugby league at an elite level. 

"It's really important for the French Federation to play in a quarter-final and that's our objective. We are a good chance of achieving it."


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