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Australia All Blacks to hit back with victory over France

11:20  19 november  2021
11:20  19 november  2021 Source:   planetrugby.com

France - Georgia. The XV of France expects "a big fight"

 France - Georgia. The XV of France expects © AFP Cameron Woki does not imagine the easy part against Georgia. Before facing Georgia Saturday with the team of France, Cameron Woki explained to expect a difficult match against Géngiens eye-catching and aggressive. No question for the blues to relax. Georgia is "a very dense team" that promises "a big fight" in the XV of France, Sunday in Bordeaux, for the second game of the autumn tour, estimated Tuesday the third line International Cameron Woki.

It seems odd to think about a head coach under pressure having only presided over two defeats in 14 matches, but that is exactly the position Ian Foster finds himself in heading to Paris.

France-v-New-Zealand-ANS-preview © PA Images France-v-New-Zealand-ANS-preview

The appointment of Foster has never truly been backed by the fans and their losses to the Springboks and Ireland have only added further ammunition to his detractors. Those defeats have also come after a distinctly mediocre 2020 and, as a result, the head coach and his team have plenty to prove this weekend.

Equally, their record is not quite as good when you delve into who they have faced this year. Seven of those matches – Tonga, Fiji (twice), USA, Italy and an out-of-form Argentina (twice) – were effectively gimmes, while they were fortunate enough to face a Wales side outside of the international window.

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Now, Wayne Pivac’s men, considering their performances since then and their overall record against New Zealand, were highly unlikely to win, but it was certainly more emphatic than it could have been.

Graham Henry revolutionised the game in his time in charge of the team before Steve Hansen, who was part of his backroom staff, built on that and provided little tweaks to almost create the perfect rugby side.

Since 2017, however, the All Blacks have been found out against the very best. By promoting from within once more, as they did with Foster, they effectively carried on Hansen’s legacy which, at the end of his tenure, did not result in a world title.

In fact, it concluded with a drawn British and Irish Lions series, a Rugby Championship triumph for South Africa and elimination at the semi-final stage in the 2019 World Cup.

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We have always felt they needed a new voice, someone like a Scott Robertson who, dare we say it, would modernise a New Zealand outfit that have rarely strayed from their core style since 2004.

The All Blacks will always win games, such is their sheer individual talent, and will equally produce some spellbinding performances but, when it matters, there is a feeling that the likes of South Africa and England in particular are just a bit more physical and smarter.

France are another who look incredibly dangerous heading into their home World Cup in 2023 and they will provide a stern test for the visitors this weekend. Fabien Galthie, allied by defensive linchpin Shaun Edwards, have helped create a new French team, where standards have been set and should not be veered from.

This is an ambitious young squad of players that are wonderfully talented and could well dominate over the next two years. However, they have possibly lacked a statement display or win, despite some excellent victories since the end of 2019.

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Although they were superb in the opening game of the 2020 Six Nations against England, they let the visitors back into the contest, which proved costly as the Red Rose claimed the title thanks to that losing bonus-point.

There was also an impressive triumph in Ireland and a comeback success over Wales, but there have generally been too many lapses for Galthie’s liking. Especially in 2021, they have slipped into the odd bad habit which used to plague their performances in the 2010s (hello Brice Dulin against Scotland), but that would all be forgotten should they overcome New Zealand.

We are not sure they are ready to do what Ireland did last weekend, however, as there are a number of weaknesses for the All Blacks to exploit. Even if there is more flair in the French side, set-piece stability, physicality and game-management wins Test matches and Les Bleus don’t quite have the complete package just yet.

Last time they met

At the end of a long season for France in 2018 and under the much-criticised Jacques Brunel, they were thrashed 49-14 in the third and final match of their series in New Zealand. It completed a 3-0 victory for the All Blacks and extended their winning run over Les Bleus to 14 games. The French were competitive in the first period and after half-an-hour were level thanks to tries from Baptiste Serin and Wesley Fofana. However, the hosts dominated the second 40 minutes and Rieko Ioane’s hat-trick – following earlier scores for Ben Smith, Matt Todd, and Damian McKenzie (twice) – sealed a dominant triumph for Hansen’s men.

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What they said

France head coach Galthie insists that they won’t try to emulate Ireland’s style when they take on New Zealand in Paris.

“Ireland have their own rugby, their own game. We can’t copy Ireland. We haven’t got the same players nor the same rugby as them,” he said.

“They were able to play a fantastic match. There’s no superlative available to describe their performance.

“Despite that, the result was in the balance before a try was turned down by the referee decision for a forward pass. It tells us a lot about Saturday’s opponents.”

Galthie also says that taking on the All Blacks is a ‘beautiful challenge’ and admits that it is a step up from what they have faced since the start of 2020.

“We took some time to review what we’ve done for the past two years and we’ve had big Tests. The first game against England after the World Cup, the first game against Wales in Cardiff. The first game we won in the Autumn Cup in Scotland and there was the win in Ireland. I could also mention the win in Melbourne. So we’ve had great games,” he added.

“We’ve experienced feelings and emotions and we feel we can really go upward and move onto the next level. This is very fulfilling and enriching and gives collective experience.

“We’ve worked together very well for three weeks with two Tests. Now it’s the last game of the autumn which will be against the best team in the world in Paris.

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“If you look at the data, the last time we defeated the All Blacks in November was in the early 2000s (2000). So I want the players to make the most of it, it’s a beautiful challenge we have ahead of us.”

All Blacks coach John Plumtree admits that their loss to Ireland hurt the squad and insists that their main improvement needs to be on getting go-forward with ball in hand.

“All the players want is honesty,” Plumtree said. “We reviewed what we thought was important with mindset. It’s not about catching anyone out; it’s about where we can get better and painting a picture for what’s important for this weekend. Then you put a plan in place and go out and practice that plan.

“You know these boys – they’re a very proud bunch, they love this jersey more than anything, and when they feel they’ve let it down that upsets them, and that will turn to hurt and anger. The best way to channel all of that is to use it as fuel for the game coming.

“The basic principle of the game is you need momentum and gain-line is a big thing. We didn’t get the gain line we needed. When we reviewed the performance it was pretty clear we didn’t get the momentum needed for our attack to function as well as we wanted to.

“This week we’ve got to get our game going forward. We’re going back to some things that we are good at – that we went away from last week.

“It’s a team game, and as a team we didn’t perform well enough. We’ve identified the areas we need to improve on, and we’ve got to fix those so we can get our game going, because if we get our game going, we know what a good side we are. In the weekend past that just never happened.”

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Players to watch

For all the excitement over the French and All Blacks backlines, you can’t win a game without the set-piece and Galthie’s men certainly need to tighten up on certain areas. It is therefore interesting to see Cameron Woki move from the back-row into the front five. Woki is one of the best lineout exponents around, so they shouldn’t lose anything in that regard, while he will also add plenty of dynamism in the loose, something they have lacked from their locks.

It is in the scrum where it might be an issue, with the youngster playing just his second match at international level in that position. Plenty of onus will therefore be on the front-row with the inconsistent scrummager Uini Atonio an interesting selection. The La Rochelle prop is an absolute man-mountain and, against the country of his birth, he will be determined to make an impression, but we’re not sure the 31-year-old has ever really proven himself to be a top Test tighthead. They do have promising front-rowers in the other positions, however, in the form of the dynamic Cyril Baille and Peato Mauvaka. We are looking forward to seeing how both players go against the very best.

Behind the scrum, there are few surprises, albeit the dual playmaker axis has been ditched for this clash. Out goes Matthieu Jalibert, with Romain Ntamack switching to fly-half and Jonathan Danty coming into the team at centre. Danty is another huge talent that hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential, but played well in Australia and has evidently done enough to keep himself in contention under Galthie. Weighing at over 17st, the centre is going to be a crucial ball-carrier for the French but he is also excellent over the ball and can win turnover penalties at the breakdown.

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  Glimpses of greatness and lamentable let-downs: Wallabies 2021 player ratings The Wallabies rode a roller-coaster through 2021. The highs were heady, with a thrilling series win over France and twice toppling world champions South Africa. Unfortunately those results were balanced by the barely watchable lament against England at Twickenham, another pantsing from the All Blacks at Eden Park and the winless run in Europe.

The gain line was an area where Ireland dominated the All Blacks – which is perhaps the reason for Danty’s inclusion – and the visitors will seek to rectify that on Saturday. At the moment, Foster doesn’t quite have a Ma’a Nonu-type player at his disposal, which is unsurprisingly hurting New Zealand, but he does have Quinn Tupaea. Talents like Nonu don’t come around too often and obviously he was an outstanding all-round centre who was more than just about size, but that lack of ballast is hurting them against the top teams and New Zealand will hope Tupaea can do that job.

Ardie Savea is one player that never takes a backward step and will once again be important this weekend, but he has to have support from his team-mates up front. Brodie Retallick is usually someone that provides it but the lock looks like a player who needs a good pre-season following his stint in the faster paced Top League in Japan. Retallick has looked surprisingly underpowered this season but Les Bleus will still certainly be wary of his quality.

Savea and Retallick should get help from Akira Ioane, however, who has come into the side to improve their carrying game. Ioane is joined by Sam Cane after they were bested by the Irish at the breakdown, while Dane Coles starts instead of the out-of-form Codie Taylor in the front-row. It is certainly a team which is intended to eradicate their deficiencies from last weekend and it should be enough to take down France in Paris.

Main head-to-head

It is wonderful we get to see the two best scrum-halves in the world go head-to-head on Saturday. Antoine Dupont continues to shine, even when his team-mates fail to truly fire, and it will be a privilege to watch him against the All Blacks. There aren’t really any weaknesses in his game and the visitors will have to watch him carefully throughout the clash.

To stop Dupont, you basically have to starve him of the ball as, even when the breakdown is messy, he has an ability to get it away from the contact area quickly and accurately. It creates disorganised defences and provides the scrum-half with numerous options in the next phase, whether it be a sniping run, a short ball to his forwards or a pass out to the backline. At the moment, Les Bleus’ captain is certainly a level above that of TJ Perenara, which is why Aaron Smith has been brought back into the side, despite only arriving last week.

The question with Smith will be a lack of recent game time but that hasn’t necessarily been an issue for him before and we expect him to get up to speed pretty quickly. The All Black has previously spoken of his respect for Dupont and how the Frenchman has made him re-evaluate his own game, but one thing the 32-year-old does have over the Toulouse star is his bullet pass. Smith’s service is the best in the sport and he will certainly speed up New Zealand’s ball.

Prediction

France are undoubtedly a very dangerous side but we’ve not been quite convinced by them over the past year. They are a comparatively young team who are developing and, by the World Cup, should be an outstanding team, but we’re not sure they yet have the relentlessness to do what Ireland did in Dublin. New Zealand by 10.

Previous results

2018: New Zealand won 49-14 in Dunedin

2018: New Zealand won 26-13 in Wellington

2018: New Zealand won 52-11 in Auckland

2017: New Zealand won 38-18 in Paris

2016: New Zealand won 24-19 in Paris

2015: New Zealand won 62-13 in Cardiff

2013: New Zealand won 26-19 in Paris

2013: New Zealand won 24-9 in New Plymouth

The teams

France: 15 Melvyn Jaminet, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Gabin Villière, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (c), 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Anthony Jelonch, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille

Replacements: 16 Gaëtan Barlot, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Thibaut Flament, 21 Dylan Cretin, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Matthieu Jalibert

New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody

Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 George Bower, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 David Havili

Date: Saturday, November 20

Venue: Stade de France, Paris

Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Karl Dickson (England)

TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)

Glimpses of greatness and lamentable let-downs: Wallabies 2021 player ratings .
The Wallabies rode a roller-coaster through 2021. The highs were heady, with a thrilling series win over France and twice toppling world champions South Africa. Unfortunately those results were balanced by the barely watchable lament against England at Twickenham, another pantsing from the All Blacks at Eden Park and the winless run in Europe.

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