All Blacks face ‘surrreal’ vibe in Marseille
THE All Blacks are braced for what should be a vociferous “football-like” crowd at the Stade Velodrome when they face France today.
The Marseille fans are known for being among the most passionate in France, with the two end stands in particular creating a blistering atmosphere with their choreographed laying at the Velodrome, scene of a 42-33 victory for France when the two teams last met there in 2000.
The atmosphere resembles that of football matches which the New Zealanders might experience as “unreal”.
“New Zealand’s pretty unique in the fact that that the crowd is a blur, a bit far away (because the stands are that bit further)” New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said. “There’s a wee bit of history with this place but it steels our boys up a bit. You’ve just got to go out and meet whatever they bring.
“We’ve got to start well, there’s no doubt about that. If you do that, it can quieten down the crowd.
“With a team like the French, you can’t allow them to get a start like we did in Dunedin (in June when France won 27-22). They’re a hard team to get under control.”
With four defeats on the international arena this season, the year has not been New Zealand’s best, but McCaw said a victory over France would mean a lot ahead of a break.
“It’s the one you’ll remember. Certainly on this tour we’ve felt we’ve made improvements to the start of the year so it’d be nice to finish with a good performance.”
The All Black captain, who has been in outstanding for m this tour, added he had been “impressed” with the French performance against the Springbos.
“The French will be a passionate, physical side who are undefeated at home in their November tests, so it will be another huge test for the All Blacks.” He said. “The team is looking forward to the challenge.”
France prop Fabien Barcella thinks the All Blacks scrum will be a major factor in the outcome.
“We’ve watched videos of their pack against England and Australia, they are very solid,” the prop said. “They will be waiting for us because we beat the world champions (South Africa), and because we won at their place in June. I have said since the start ... that the New Zealand match would be the toughest.”
Fullback Mils Muliaina will play in his 82nd test – 10 shy of former hooker Sean Fitzpatrick’s All Blacks record – while captain Richie McCaw plays in his 80th. Flyhalf Daniel Carter needs one point to become New Zealand’s record scorer against France. He is currently level on 92 points with Andrew Mehrtens.
France also played well in its tour of the southern hemisphere in June, winning in Dunedin and narrowly losing the second Test 14-10 in Wellington.
“Of course, you are a bit scared when you play New Zealand, the best team in the world.
The All Blacks will be out for revenge because of Dunedin,” Barcella said. “We beat them once and caused them problems in the second game. They are coming here to win in style. I must admit we’re impatient to play this match.”
The only previous time the teams played at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome, France won 42-33 in 2000. Roared on by 66,000 passionate fans, France scored two tries inside the first eight minutes through left winger Xavier Garbajosa and No 8 Olivier Magne. Only France prop Sylvain Marconnet remains from that team. – AP
GETTING SET: All Blacks Conrad Smith (middle), captain Richie McCaw, left, Wyatt Crockett, right, and Kieran Read, during a training session in Marseille ahead of the Test against France.