Rugby League World Cup: England coach not underestimating France on Saturday
Steve McNamara says he is expecting a stern challenge from France in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final at Wigan.
Last Updated: 13/11/13 12:06pm
France's 22-6 defeat by Samoa in Perpignan on Monday night completed the pool stages and meant they face third favourites England after finishing third in their group.
After beating the French 44-6 and 48-4 in last year's autumn internationals with the nucleus of the side that will be on duty on Saturday, McNamara's men are overwhelming favourites to secure a place in the Wembley semi-final double header.
However, McNamara believes France are a much-improved team under new coach Richard Agar, the Wakefield and former Hull boss, and he was impressed with their performance against the physical Samoans.
"(Monday's) game was pretty brutal at times with a lot of physical contact," said McNamara.
"Both sides knew they were going to progress into the quarter-finals but I thought there was a lot of intent from both teams.
"I think France are going to be a really tough team. They showed that and they stood up to Samoa.
"They were brave and pretty heroic at times under some real pressure. They have got a lot of spirit within their team, so they're dangerous opposition for us."
Like his predecessors, Agar will be relying on the bulk of the Catalan Dragons players to do the business for him and McNamara believes the French side's strong showing in Super League this year will help guard against any complacency in his squad.
"I think the majority of our Super League players have had extremely tough games against Catalan," he said.
"If you're not physical against them and you're not on your game, then you'll get beat and it's exactly the same against the French team.
"I think Richard has got them organised pretty well and structurally they look really good.
"They've maybe just lacked a cutting edge and I know they're disappointed they've not scored some more tries. Structurally - offensively and defensively - they look in good nick."