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Rugby World Cup 2003: FANS MUST BE OZ-SOME; RU WORLD CUP 2003: FRANCE v SCOTLAND, TODAY, KO 11.30 am Redpath: Tartan special can help Scotland to French victory.

Byline: Kevin BOYD

SKIPPER Bryan Redpath believes the Scotland fans' backing will be more important than ever when he goes into the biggest game of his career against France in a sell-out Telstra Stadium this morning.

The scrum-half is counting on his side responding to criticism of their opening two performances by raising their game to a higher level as they try to upset the odds against Les Bleus.

And after a week which has been overshadowed by the suspension of Martin Leslie, 'Basil' believes the noisy Tartan Army can also play their part by spurring the Scots on to a famous victory.

Ian McGeechan's side have already notched up two wins and maximum points, albeit unconvincingly, against Japan and USA.

A victory today and a bonus point would send them into the quarter-finals even before the final pool game against the Fijians.

Redpath, who won the first of his 57 caps a decade ago and will retire at the end of the tournament, said: "I played in the last two World Cups but I think this is my biggest game ever.

"The atmosphere on Monday night against America was just electric. This game proves we have got a lot of support.

"We may be the only 15 people in the stadium who believe we can win the game but we just have to perform better than we have and put pressure on France. We just need to perform. "

Replacement Cammie Mather will fill the problem openside flank today after injuries to Andrew Mower and Jon Petrie and the suspension of Leslie.

The Edinburgh flanker's 12-match ban for kneeing American Jason Keyter means he will not play again in the tournament - though the SRU did last night inform the appropriate authorities that they are appealing the decision.

Redpath added: "The first thing Martin said was sorry because he had let the boys down. But I can guarantee you that every single player is right behind Martin.

"I feel desperately sorry for him to finish that way. He has been a great asset for Scotland and Edinburgh. He will be a great miss for everyone, as a friend as well.

"But I think it is something we can use to our advantage."

Redpath admitted that the squad's siege mentality will also be deployed against outside attacks on the squad.

He added: "The criticism definitely makes us stronger. We are aware of the criticism outside the squad and we just have to stick together and trust each other."

Winger Kenny Logan, who returns to the side in the place of Simon Danielli, also believes Scotland's underdog status will help them.

He said: "Our backs are against the wall in some ways. We know we are the underdogs and we always perform well as underdogs.

"We have beaten France a couple of times in the last fiveorsixyears andIhavebeaten themthreetimes.SoI I am pretty confident we can beat them again."

The Scots will today be among the first teams to be tested for the designer steroid THG - which British sprinter Dwain Chambers is accused of taking - at the World Cup when tournament organisers test players from all three matches.

And though Scotland coach McGeechan yesterday denied there was a drug problem in rugby it was not a view shared by French star Olivier Magne.

Magne said: "Money has become more and more important in our sport and don't be surprised if, unfortunately, a player is caught with drugs in his sample. I am a fitness fanatic and I work very hard to ready myself for the big matches but it is true that when I see some players making progress in double-quick time, I wonder how they can manage it."

Magne is well aware his side are under pressure to go a step further than they have before by winning the tournament.

And though coach Bernard Laporte has put emphasis on improving the defence, Magne believes France cannot afford to sacrifice their traditional attacking flair.

The Montferrand flanker said: "We have an attacking quality and we must use it, we must play with our instincts, play to our traditional strengths.

"We have many instinct players who are able to make a difference with the ball and that is why the French team is able to win the World Cup. If we can play like that, I think we can win any game."

CAPTION(S):

RED LETTER DAY: Redpath and Tom Smith are put through their paces before today's crunch clash with France in Sydney; SURF'S UP: Jerome Thion and Olivier Magne hit the beach
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 25, 2003
Words:760
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