THREE QUES­TIONS FOR FRANCE

NZ Rugby World - - Steinlager Series 2018 -

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.

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