France will be looking to end a 12-match losing streak against the All Blacks when these sides resume hostilities in Wellington on Saturday.
Facing the All Blacks in New Zealand is no mean feat and after the world champions’ 52-11 victory in last weekend’s opening Test, France will have to play out of their skin if they want to secure their first win since 2009 against New Zealand.
Although the All Blacks possess potent attackers like Ben Smith, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie and Beaden Barrett, who all played well in the first Test, it was the performances of their replacements which also had a big impact on the end result.
Damian McKenzie proved a handful off the bench during the final 20 minutes. McKenzie gained 113 metres on attack which included a fine five-pointer as well as a try-assist.
Of the other reserves, debutant front-row Karl Tu’inukuafe won a penalty in his first scrum on the park and Ardie Savea was rewarded with a try after an energetic display.
Despite conceding a half century of points, it wasn’t all doom and gloom in that encounter in Auckland for France, who did well to frustrate the All Blacks for 50 minutes before a controversial yellow card to Paul Gabrillagues changed the complexion of the match.
The All Blacks scored 14 unanswered points during Gabrillagues’ spell off the field and by the time he returned to the playing field, the world champions were in total control of proceedings.
After his side’s second-half capitulation, France head coach Jacques Brunel has made five changes to his starting line-up and believes his charges can build on their first-half performance from the first Test.
“The new players will be fresh, bring enthusiasm and had good seasons for their clubs,” he said.
Flanker Kélian Galletier has put that first Test behind him and feels France must neutralise the All Blacks’ attacking flair and also work on winning some turnovers if they want to be successful.
“Their attack line is fast,” he said. “We need to steal balls in order to organise our game.
“Our goal is to avoid their progression on the field, we need to be connected and make good choices.
“We must master two areas: our kicking and lost balls. After that, we will have control over our destiny.”
Players to watch:
For New Zealand: Although the All Blacks are a world class well-oiled machine, who work brilliantly as a unit, Codie Taylor caught the eye with a superb individual performance in Auckland. The 27-year-old has a high work-rate and was at the forefront of his side’s forward charge in Auckland and his execution of his core duties was also impressive. He was rewarded with a try in that Test and it’s hard to believe that he is actually the world champions’ second-choice hooker behind Dane Coles, who is arguably the game’s best player in that position.
For France: After missing out on selection for the first Test due to his involvement in the Top 14 Final against Castres, Montpellier’s Benjamin Fall will have to hit the ground running after he was named at full-back for this Test. A slick runner, with impressive ball skills, Fall will be expected to give les Bleus much needed momentum from the back.
Head-to-head: The duel out wide between All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane and his les Bleus counterpart Teddy Thomas is an appetising one as they are two of the most exciting attacking players in world rugby. Both possess plenty of pace and have the ability to change the course of a game with a moment of brilliance. Ioane came out on top last week – after scoring two tries – but Thomas also had some good moments in that clash and will be keen to build on that showing.
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 (World Cup quarter-final) in Cardiff
2013: New Zealand won 26-19 in Paris
2013: New Zealand won 24-9 in New Plymouth
2013: New Zealand won 30-0 in Christchurch
2013: New Zealand won 23-13 in Auckland
Prediction: The world champions will continue where they left off last weekend and cruise to another victory. New Zealand to win by 32 points!
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock (c), 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Ngani Laumape
France: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud (c), 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Gael Fickou, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Kelian Gourdon, 7 Kélian Galletier, 6 Mathieu Babillot, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Bernard le Roux, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Dany Priso
Replacements: 16 Pierre Bourgarit, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Jules Plisson, 23 Maxime Médard
Date: Saturday, June 16
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Luke Pearce (England)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)