France got their Rugby World Cup campaign off to a winning start as they beat the All Blacks 27-13 at the Stade de France in Paris on Friday.
Tries from Damian Penaud and Melvyn Jaminet were added to by 17 points from the boot of Thomas Ramos as Les Bleus claimed a deserved triumph.
It was an absorbing contest in the heat as New Zealand battled bravely but in the end couldn’t live with France, who wore them down to seal the win.
Wing Mark Telea scored two tries for New Zealand, with fly-half Richie Mo’unga kicking a penalty. While New Zealand are still odds-on to secure a quarter-final place from Pool A, France’s success sent an immediate message of their world title intent.
New Zealand suffered a late injury blow when captain Sam Cane was ruled out.
The All Blacks announced just 45 minutes before kick-off at Stade de France that flanker Cane would miss the heavyweight clash, although they did not specify his injury.
Number eight Ardie Savea took over as skipper, with Dalton Papali’i moving from blindside to openside flanker and Tupou Vaa’i being promoted to the starting XV.
Despite the loss of Cane, New Zealand showed no sign of it unsettling them as they went ahead after just 93 seconds when full-back Beauden Barrett’s precision kick was gathered by Telea for the opening try.
Although Ramos kicked a penalty shortly afterwards, Les Blues struggled to settle and hooker Julien Marchand was forced off injured after 13 minutes.
A second Ramos penalty nudged France ahead, but Mo’unga quickly cancelled that out ahead of a water-break as temperatures nudged 28 degrees at almost 10pm local time.
Ramos completed his penalty hat-trick 12 minutes before half-time as France claimed a 9-8 interval lead.
New Zealand began the second period with an immediate statement of intent as skipper Savea’s kick was gathered by wing Will Jordan before centre Rieko Ioane’s superb long pass found Telea, who sprinted over for his second try.
Back came France, though, when fly-half Matthieu Jalibert’s half-break set up Penaud for an outstanding try, and Ramos’ wide-angled conversion made it 16-13.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 8, 2023
Jordan was shown a yellow card by referee Jaco Peyper for an illegal aerial challenge on Ramos, which was also referred to to the ‘bunker’ before remaining as a sin-binning only.
Ramos’ fourth successful penalty opened up a six-point gap inside the final quarter, and another successful kick seven minutes from time sealed the deal as France triumphed 27-13 on the back of Jaminet’s late touchdown.
France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Yoram Moefana, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont (c), 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Reda Wardi
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Paul Boudehent, 21 Maxime Lucu 22 Arthur Vincent, 23 Melvyn Jaminet
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea (c), 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Tupou Vaa’i, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 David Havili, 23 Leicester Fainga’nuku
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)