THREE QUESTIONS FOR FRANCE
1 Can consistent France get better?
Stereotypes are hard to kill. And the one which has portrayed French rugby as a mercurial beast, capable of brilliance one minute and abject uselessness the next, is long overdue a rethink.
It’s simply not true, and hasn’t been for almost a decade, that the French are a wildly fluctuating team.
For the last five years certainly, they have been an okay team, playing consistently okay rugby. The question to ask is whether they will come to New Zealand and build on the slow but sure improvements they have made in the last 12 months?
France troubled the All Blacks in the second half of their test in Paris last year. They were a minute away from beating Ireland in the Six Nations and did manage to defeat to England.
They are getting better and they have posted good statistics about their ability to offload, win their own ball and defend with accuracy.
We know France are going to be solid, well organised and hard to beat, but can they go up another level again in June?
2 Sticking power
Despite the fact France are a more consistent side, there is always the question of whether they can hold everything together for three weeks to consider.
They haven’t in the past tended to travel that well and they are coming to New Zealand at the end of an incredibly long and demanding domestic season that will only finish the weekend before the first test.
If they don’t manage to play well in the first test, can they find the mental fortitude to pick themselves up and hang in the fight for the second and third tests?
They managed to play well three times in succession the last time they were here but they caught the All Blacks on a bad day in the first test which gave them hope and confidence for the rest of the series.
3 Pick up the pace
The great French teams of old were so dangerous because they played at a ferocious pace when they wanted to.
Remember the way they erupted in the World Cup semifinal of 1999? One half they were plodding along, the next they were moving at unbelievable speed and the All Blacks couldn’t shut them down or get remotely close to them.
This is what they have been missing in recent seasons but is something they looked to be improving in the Six Nations. Can they find another gear in New Zealand and counter attack well, offload and keep the ball alive to the extent they move the All Blacks’ defence around?
PLAY TIME The French are reconnecting with their creative side.