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World Cup honour for Ibanez

By Phil Jackson.   Last Updated: 02/07/07 1:13pm

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Raphael Ibanez has been charged with the responsibility of leading France to glory at the 2007 World Cup, starting in September.

The 34-year-old Wasps hooker led Les Bleus to the final against Australia in 1999, losing 35-12 on that occasion.

Toulouse lock Fabien Pelous took over as the nation's captain after that game, and took the side to fourth at the last World Cup in Australia.

With Pelous struggling all season long with injuries, coach Bernard Laporte has chosen to install the fully fit Ibanez - who has won 90 caps for the country - as captain.

Team manager Jo Maso explained: "We just cannot be sure until the last moment whether Fabien will be fit enough and we do not want to put more pressure on him.

"The fact that the two of them are the best of friends made it a lot easier to make the change."

France have never won the world crown, but have twice been runners-up - in 1987 and 1999.

After sealing this season's RBS Six Nations victory with a thumping win over Scotland though, the French have high hopes for the World Cup on home turf.

They have been drawn against Ireland, Argentina, Georgia and Namibia in Pool D, and begin their campaign against the Pumas on September 7.

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