France to ‘fight intelligently’ in their bid to beat the All Blacks
Italy chase an historic victory, but fear Wallaby backlash
The All Blacks warmed up for their European tour with a crushing 54-6 win over Japan in Tokyo last weekend, and will be looking to maintain their momentum before facing England and Ireland.
Three All Blacks with 100plus Test caps and another with 98 will take the field at Stade de France, and the visitors’ squad features 853 Test caps in the starting XV.
In the forwards, 105- Test prop Tony Woodcock will pack down alongside 108-Test hooker Keven Mealamu, while captain Richie McCaw returns on the openside flank for his 122nd Test match, and flyhalf Dan Carter plays his 99th.
Fullback Bruce Dulin, with only seven caps, prop Yannick Forestier, with five, and flanker Wenceslas Lauret, with four, are vastly inexperienced compared to their New Zealand opposite numbers.
Despite that gulf, Saint- Andre maintains France can compete.
“The players are ready mentally,” he said. “We’ll have to be very good in defence.”
The All Blacks edged France 8-7 in the final to win the World Cup two years ago.
“The players know they just missed out on victory there (in the World Cup final) and there wasn’t much missing,” SaintAndre said.
But Saint-Andre has taken the risky step of going up against the tactical brilliance of Carter with a new halfback pairing of Morgan Parra and Remi Tales.
“Morgan’s experience counts, as well as his ability as a kicker,” Saint- Andre said. “We need a long kicking game.”
The visitors will be wearing their alternate white strip which will be embossed with a red poppy on the sleeve to mark Armistice Day, on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I in which more than a dozen men who wore the famed black jersey lost their lives.
“France is one of our great rugby foes and there is a rich history of matches between our two countries,” Hansen said. “The French will come at us with real physicality, passion and something new.”
However, the French have not beaten New Zealand on home soil since an 42-33 win in 2000 and not in Paris since 1973 and have been some crushing losses – 45-6 in 2004 and 47-3 two years later.
Lock Pascal Pape returns to the side for the first time since limping off injured against Italy in the Six Nations in February.
France are looking for form and confidence after finishing last in the Six Nations for the first time since the tournament was formed 13 years ago. – Sapa-AP
However, Brunel is not alone in thinking Ewen McKenzie’s side will emerge at the Olympic Stadium looking to make amends for a 20-13 defeat at Twickenham.
“You can’t say it’s the best time to be meeting Australia. I’m sure that after last week’s defeat, which to me was quite unlucky, they will bring a lot of intensity and rhythm into this match,” Brunel said in Turin on Thursday.
The statistics, however, suggest Italy have a real chance to claim what would be their first ever win over Australia in 16 attempts.
Having allowed England to overturn their 13-6 half-time deficit in London, Australia’s dreams of a five-Test Grand Slam came undone at the first hurdle.
The pressure on McKenzie has only intensified.
Ahead of further matches against Ireland, Scotland and Wales, he admits Italy will be a tougher nut to crack than they were this time last year when the Aussies held on to claim a 22-19 win in Florence.
“We’ve never had an easy game here in Italy and even last year they had a chance to tie the game after the final siren,” said McKenzie.
McKenzie has made only one change from the XV that started against England, with Rob Simmons, known primarily as a lock, coming in at blindside flanker to replace Scott Fardy, who is unavailable after suffering concussion.
Simmons’ inclusion is designed to add muscle to the set-pieces of the scrum and lineout, and McKenzie added: “Having Simmo return will benefit us in that regard. He’s instrumental in us winning our own ball while we’ll be looking for him to put pressure on their lineout and scrum.”
Italy are renowned for their set-piece strength and second row forward Antonio Pavanello believes consistency is the key.
“Last year we came into our game in the second half and this time we want to play well from the beginning,” he said.
“If there is one point where we can put pressure on Australia, I’m sure it’s in the forwards. But we have to go out and do it, not just talk about it.” – Sapa-AFP