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Serge Betsen backs Chris Robshaw and England to make it to the final

Chris RobshawEngland’s back-row is not in the same class as those of Pool A rivals Australia and Wales, according to Serge Betsen.

But the legendary French flanker is still tipping Stuart Lancaster’s side to reach the final – where he predicts they will play France!

Betsen rates Australia’s back-row most highly, telling The Rugby Paper: “Australia’s back-row is No.1, Wales No.2 and England are third.

“Australia and New Zealand have the best back rows in the World Cup and have guys who will pose a big threat to teams at the breakdown.

“If you’re not precise or skilful enough to protect your ball-carrier, it will be very difficult for teams like England to keep momentum going.

“Your clean-out has to be right and on the evidence of the Rugby Championship, Australia have got the right players in their squad.

“Michael Hooper and David Pocock are the best there are, but the question mark over Australia is around their front five.

“I see England qualifying with a big battle between Australia and Wales for the other spot.”

Betsen believes Wales skipper Sam Warburton will enjoy a stellar World Cup after the disappointment of his semi-final sending off against France four years ago.

“Warburton, below, is someone who stands out for me and he’ll have a great World Cup,” said Betsen. “He’s made mistakes in the past and I thought his red card against France was right, but he’s learnt from that and is now far more precise.

“He brings a huge amount of physicality to his defence and is a ferocious tackler.

“He’s also an excellent leader – quiet off the field but very effective on it.”

Betsen believes maverick French fly-half Frederic Michalak will prove his doubters wrong by leading France to the final.

The Toulon veteran’s tendency to mix moments of brilliance with infuriating inconsistency has split opinion among French fans since his Test debut in 2001.

But Betsen says: “Michalak has one really big tournament left in him, and with a very good pack in front, I have no doubts France will be a threat.

“He was so frustrated about not reaching the final in 2007, and not playing in 2011 hurt him as well, so he has the desire to really perform.

“I believe he will have extra motivation in his mind and he’s got the character and skills to bring a lot to France.

“If Michalak plays well a lot of players in France’s backline have the potential to be World Cup stars.”

Toulouse winger Yoann Huget, who scored a blistering try against England, is one, Betsen adding: “Huget didn’t get picked in 2011 so he’s got that sense of revenge and desire. Now he has the confidence of the coach he will have a big part to play.”

Betsen adds: “My prediction is an England v France final. It’s time for Philippe Saint-Andre’s team to be properly judged. France have been so close to winning the World Cup and they will be desperate to go one better than 2011.

“France’s Pool is not as difficult as England’s and the schedule really gives us a chance to work on our game plan as the tournament progresses. Italy first, then Romania and Canada before Ireland, so that is perfect

“This French side is ready for this tournament.”

Betsen, who runs the Serge Betsen Academy   helping children in his native Cameroon, is also an ambassador at Wasps.

He predicts a bright future for his former club, adding: “It’s 2008 since Wasps won the league but they can challenge for the top four.”

Serge Betsen has a charity dinner on October 8. Details at sergebetsenacademy.com

NEALE HARVEY

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