ABs focus on fiery French

Like the Springboks, the All Blacks have placed another team above the English when they tour Europe in November.

New Zealand play France in back-to-back Tests, the first of which will be held on 11 November in Lyon. The occasion is set to hold some special significance for the French, the game being played on Armistice Day. Les Bleus will also be mindful of the 45-6 drubbing they received in their last encounter with the All Blacks two years ago, a game that saw Dan Carter picking up 25 points.

But the current Six Nations champs have come a long way since Paris in 2004. The Springboks found out on last year’s European tour and once again in Cape Town this June just how dangerous the French can be. Coaches Graham Henry and Wayne Smith have confirmed that they expect a huge onslaught.

“It’s on November 11, which is Armistice Day,” said Smith at the All Blacks squad announcement. “Traditionally we know what happens on that day – it’s an important day for the French.

“They’re seldom beaten on Armistice Day, because it means a lot to them. That’s going to turn it into more of a battle.”

Henry focused on the other reason that will motivate the Tricolores, namely revenge.

“We had a big win against them a couple of years ago, and they’ve been waiting for us since then. It’s going to be war at Lyon,” he said.

“I think the French will be as big and as good as they’ll ever be in Lyon in three weeks’ time. They’ve been setting for two years for this contest, so I don’t know about boxing smart. I think we’re going to have to be out there giving them a game.”

Speaking about the match at Twickenham, the New Zealand coach admitted that the English would provide a different sort of challenge. He also acknowledged their status as a difficult opponent at home, but hinted that they were not as threatening or unpredictable as the French on attack.

“If you look at the record of the All Blacks at Twickenham, it’s not great. We lose more games over there than one would hope.

“It’s always a major contest, the Twickenham Test match. They’re a big side who play very conservative rugby and try to live off your mistakes and kick the goals. So we know what we’re going up against.”