Rugby Union: Burke's Boot Lays Down Law ; France 13 Australia 18 Try: Galthie Pens: Burke 6 Con: Lamaison Pens: Lamaison 2 Half-Time: 3-9 Attendance: 70,000

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IT IS perfectly possible to beat the world champions in a game of rugby, but not if you follow the French approach last night. To begin with, it is not the best of ideas to give a goal-kicker as accurate as Matthew Burke half-a-dozen kicks at goal, for he is 99 per cent certain to convert the lot. In addition, it is advisable to play for the whole 80 minutes, rather than for 10 at the start and another five at the end. Nothing less than everything will do when the Wallabies are in town.

The Tricolores' record at Stade de France has been about as scintillating as a bucket of corked vin de table over the last couple of years, and the lack of confidence among the public was reflected in the turn-out, which was no more than respectable. All things considered, Gallic rugby is going through one of its occasional flat periods: even when dashing D'Artagnan types like Christophe Dominici and Philippe Bernat-Salles are playing, there is a distinct lack of pizzazz. Without them, Les Bleus are a whiter shade of pale compared with the World Cup unit that ripped through the All Blacks a year ago.

Bernat-Salles is out of favour with Bernard Laporte, and Dominici is beset with personal problems. When Thomas Castaignede failed to make it through last night's warm-up - the Saracens full-back, who had been plagued by an ankle injury all week, ruptured his Achilles tendon last night - the French back-line looked no better than workaday. Certainly, Castaignede's late replacement, Xavier Garbajosa, appeared horribly out of sorts as the thoroughbreds in the Wallabies tested him with high balls throughout the opening period.

What little French fire there was came early, and it came from the tough guys at the coalface. Fabrice Landreau and Sylvain Marconnet, blood brothers in the Stade Francais front row, took up the cudgels from the off, and their close-quarter work allowed the remarkable Olivier Magne to strut his stuff in characteristic style. Twice in the opening 10 minutes, the French forwards surged towards the Wallaby line. Twice they over-complicated things in the face of some iron defence.

The tourists, on the other hand, were several degrees more precise in everything they did, and that allowed Burke to kick three penalties in the first half and two more in the opening 14 minutes of the second. The last of these, from near halfway, was a heartbreaker for the French, leaving them as it did 12 points off the pace. …