New Zealand vs France Test Preview

The first New Zealand-France Test on Saturday offers a glimpse of the future for both sides while the All Blacks look to defend a proud history at their Eden Park fortress.

Of the 46 players in the two squads that battled in the World Cup final on the same ground 18 months ago only eight All Blacks and four French return while up to six players will look to make their international debut.

“It will be interesting to see this game for both sides. You are going to see their international teams for the next years,” said French captain Thierry Dusautoir, who also led France when they lost the World Cup final 8-7.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he had to “take some risks” in naming his side to establish whether the younger players can cope with the pressures of Test rugby to justify a place in the long term.

Much of the All Blacks reshuffle was forced by injuries, headed by playmaker Dan Carter, along with the absence of regular skipper Richie McCaw who is on a six-month sabbatical.

But the rawness of the All Blacks, particularly in the forwards, was not cause to celebrate for Dusautoir who is tasked with motivating his own relatively green side.

Even McCaw and Carter had to start somewhere and “now, they are legends of the All Blacks”, he said Friday before leading France through their final training session.

“Maybe we are going to see other players who are going to play for the All Blacks for long years.”

French coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who captained the successful 1994 French side, has formulated a defensive strategy he believes can blunt the All Blacks but knows there is the likelihood of severe consequences if it does not come off.

“We have to kill their time and space,” he said of the All Blacks potent running game.

“We have to prevent them from making five or six passes because if they start like that then we can’t stop them.

“We also have to be very precise when we kick because we know how good their counter-attack can be.”

All Blacks captain Kieran Read sees their biggest challenge as winning the forward confrontation where the French pack does have experience –with 251 caps among the starting eight compared to 155 among the All Blacks.

“We expect a massive challenge, especially up front. They’re working away on their scrum and it’s always their biggest threat,” he said

“We always respect the French and expect them to be on their game in every Test. We know they have been sitting in wait a long time for this and we’re certainly looking forward to a big challenge.

“The first Test we’ve got to get it right. No real excuses from our point of view.”

The Bookies have given France a 19 point start for this Match – with an offer of a FREE $150 BET.

Match Officials
: Wayne Barnes (ENG)


New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam; Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Ben Afeaki, Jeremy Thrush, Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barret

France: Yoann Huget; Adrien Plante, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard; Camille Lopez, Maxime Machenaud; Louis Picamoles, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Thierry Dusautoir (capt); Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina; Luc Ducalcon, Dimitri Szarzewski, Thomas Domingo

Replacements: Guilhem Guirado, Vincent Debaty, Daniel Kotze, Alexandre Flanquart, Yannick Nyanga, Jean-Marc Doussain, Frederic Michalak, Maxime Mermoz

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