Fighting talk on le rugby from visiting French navy

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A FRENCH warship is to change course to make sure the crew can watch their fellow countrymen take on England in the Rugby World Cup this weekend.

The nations clash in the semi-final on Saturday and the commanding officer of the FS Mistral has vowed to make sure his crew can see it.

Speaking during a visit to Portsmouth, Captain Gilles Humeau was full of fighting talk and fired off a few broadsides in the direction of Blighty.

'We will adapt our programme so we can watch the match,' he said. 'I think it is a good thing we leave before France's victory over England though!

'I think we will stay near the shore so we can get the television to watch the match. I am very confident.'

Naval attach Captain Jean-Nicolas Gauthier added: 'We will win, of course.

'If we do not win the World Cup this time, we never will. You had your time – this should be ours.'

The 21,600-ton command ship is the second largest in the French fleet, and is slightly bigger than HMS Ark Royal.

It has been berthed alongside the Royal Navy's flagship since Monday, and the French have been keen to show off their vessel before it leaves Portsmouth today.

Despite its immense size, the Mistral currently operates with a crew of just 174 – compared with around 700 on Ark Royal – and can be operated with as few as 160.

Captain Humeau, added: 'The first time I visited a British ship I said to the captain of HMS Somerset how impressed I was by how much space there was.

'He said to me "You Frenchies have never understood anything about naval construction – space does not cost anything."

'Of course, now I am very proud to be commanding a ship with even more space than that.'

He added: 'On Monday, the ship was docked less than about 10m from the Ark Royal at one end and 10m from a frigate at the other end – but it was so easy for the commanding officer to do. You would never have thought it was a 200m-long vessel.

'It is a very flexible and versatile ship. We can have 450 soldiers on board, as well as our sailors, and have so much on board.

'It is quite amazing when you think of what some of the older ships were like.'