The Rugby World Cup passes the halfway point this weekend and serves up a much anticipated Pool A battle. Hosts New Zealand will pit their wits against their World Cup bogey side France in front of a sell-out crowd at Eden Park this Saturday.
It was Les Bleus who dumped New Zealand out of both the 1999 and 2007 Rugby World Cup.
We are very wary of France,” says influential New Zealand outside-half Dan Carter. “I know how much they love playing the All Blacks and it is going to be a huge game for us. They are dangerous and unpredictable and they will crank it up for this game.
Victory would send Les Bleus into the seemingly tougher half of the quarter-final draw where Australia and South Africa are almost certain to lie in wait.
Marc Lievremont will be without prop Nicolas Mas for the match through injury, and shook up his own pack by leaving other first-choice forwards William Servat (hooker), Imanol Harinordoquy (flanker) and Fabien Barcella (prop) on the bench.
Lièvremont has also opted to field two scrum-halves. Dimitri Yachvili will wear No9 and will have Morgan Parra as his half-back partner.
For New Zealand, Dan Carter has been declared fully fit for Saturday’s clash. Carter had picked up a back injury after some crunching tackles in the opening game against Tonga on and has been having treatment ever since.
Captain Richie McCaw has also recovered from a minor calf strain in time to make the starting line-up.
New Zealand: Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (c), Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Daniel Carter, Richard Kahui, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg.
Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Sonny Bill Williams.
France: Jean-Baptiste Poux, Dimitri Szarzewski, Luc Ducalcon, Pascal Pape, Lionel Nallet, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Julien Bonnaire, Louis Picamoles, Dimitri Yachvili, Morgan Parra, Maxime Médard, Maxime Mermoz, Aurélien Rougerie, Vincent Clerc, Damien Traille.
Replacements: William Servat, Fabien Barcella, Julien Pierre, Imanol Harinordoquy, Francois Trinh-Duc, Fabrice Estebanez, Cédric Heymans.