All Blacks face ‘sur­rreal’ vibe in Mar­seille

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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.

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