20 Jun, 09:22
Ireland Women's Sevens coach Jon Skurr has announced a 12 woman squad for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow (June 29th/30th).
France face England in what the organisers pray will be a real championship decider, as it was by accident rather than design last year when Ireland went to the wire against the English.
For Laporte, though, it will require a superhuman effort to raise his troops' morale after the battering they took at the hands of England in the pouring rain in Sydney in the 24-7 World Cup semi-final defeat in November.
However, he will be extra keen to start off his hard-won new four-year contract with an impressive Six Nations campaign - Laporte is still under the microscope, as are his assistant coaches who are on probabtion for the tournament.
A chastened Laporte has said there are lessons to be learned from the last game with England and he is determined to take advantage of them. "They (the English) outsmarted us both physically and psychologically," the 39-year-old former Stade Francais handler admitted.
Laporte now has to contend with a demanding first match at home to Ireland on February 14th, though for the always romantically inclined French it being St Valentines Day might just spur them on that much more passionately.
At least the hosts will go into the opener with the psychological advantage that they demolished a high class Irish side 43-21 in the World Cup quarter-finals - their performance in the first-half when they scored 27 points to none accepted by most pundits as probably the best 40 minutes of rugby from one team in the tournament - which still has the Irish reeling. However, Laporte accepts that with the retirements of inspirational charismatic captain Fabien Galthie and 1999 World Cup skipper Raphael Ibanez, a huge gap has been left.
"They were immense players for us," said Laporte. "Those will be huge gaps to fill but then again other teams have lost influential players such as Martin Johnson for England and Keith Wood from Ireland ... so there is no excuse."
With Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Yannick Bru likely to fill Galthie's and Ibanez's boots respectively, Laporte will need more than ever a dominating performance from 21-year-old fly-half Frederic Michalak, who like his coach needs to correct the last impression he left at the World Cup - cracking under the pressure of the semi-final against England.
"Of course it is still in my head how I played that night," Michalak, who has scored 163 points including four tries in his 18 tests to date, said.
"But I would like to think I can put that to the back of my mind as it is in the past, though it will remain with me. In a way I like that as you can learn from bad performances and rid yourself of those errors," he admitted bluntly.
Laporte too is praying that the youngster has indeed come through the baptism of fire successfully. "I hope he (Michalak) shows that his last match is behind him (the 24-7 defeat by England)," Laporte said.
"Of course facing Ireland is a tough task and it will be even more so for him on a psychological level given this is his first international since the poor match he played against England.
"However he is a class player and he has been playing well for Toulouse and I think the matter is finished."
France will dearly hope so because the last thing they need is another underwhelming performance in such an important match because the damage psychologically could be ever-lasting for Michalak. For Laporte, it could have far-reaching consequences. (AFP)