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Francis, McDonald face steep task against James at Paris Diamond League meet

Published:Thursday | July 2, 2015 | 12:00 AMRaymond Graham

A week ago at the National Senior Athletics Championships, both Javon Francis and Rusheen McDonald treated the crowd to an epic battle in the men's 400 metres.

Francis held on to win his first senior title in 44.70 seconds as McDonald ran on late for a close second in 44.73 seconds.

A week earlier at the JAAA All Comers meet, it was also a close finish with Francis running on strongly to catch the front-running McDonald close home, to win in a season best 44.50 seconds. McDonald's second-place effort was also a season best, 44.60 seconds.

Rivalry to play out

Both will continue their rivalry this Saturday when they compete at the Paris Diamond League, in what is the first Diamond League appearance for new national champion Francis.

This will be an acid test for both athletes, as the country's best two quarter-milers will want to show that they are ready to compete against the world's best.

The field will be led by none other than Grenada's Kirani James, who has been brilliant so far. He is unbeaten and is the only man to have gone under 44 seconds so far this season, with his 43.95 seconds at the Prefontaine Classics in Eugene, Oregon, where he destroyed none other than the United States' Lashawn Merritt, whom he has beaten twice this season.

James is expected to continue his winning run, but from a local standpoint, all eyes will be on Francis and McDonald.

They not only have to contend with James, as South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk, who finished second at New York's adidas grand prix - with a best of 44.24 seconds - has the third fastest time this season and is number two behind James.

Also in the line-up is the United States' David Verburg, who clocked 44.41 seconds to surprise Merritt at the USA National Championships in winning the event.