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Rugby World Cup 2011 Match Preview – New Zealand vs France

Host nation New Zealand meet their world cup nemesis France, in what will certainly be a fascinating match in Auckland today.

Much had been made of whether French coach Marc Lievremont knew his best XV, and following Ireland’s win over Australia there was further speculation about France’s motivation for this match. Following the naming of the teams, both questions have been heard more often and more loudly.

The team who finish second in pool A can expect a likely quarterfinal against England or Scotland (or, still mathematically possible, Argentina); then a probable semifinal against Wales or Ireland. On the other side of the draw, the pool A winners will face one of England, Scotland or Argentina; followed by a probable semi final against Australia or South Africa.

It’s possible that the French, in particular, could see the option of finishing second and slipping into a de facto “Northern Hemisphere” side of the finals draw as an attractive option. They would have the advantage of familiarity with all of those teams, having played them all earlier this year in the six nations; and further, having defeated them all save England.

The same could be said for the All Blacks of course, having had several successful northern hemisphere tours over the last few years. The difference lies in the teams named; in particular, Lievremont’s choice of specialist halfback Morgan Parra at flyhalf. Whilst Parra is an excellent player and kicker, his tremendous lack of experience in the position is a potential weakness the All Blacks will certainly look to expose. The other main talking point in the French line-up is the exclusion of experienced loose forward Imanol Harinordoquy, who will start from the bench.

By contrast, the All Blacks have named a team relatively free of surprise or controversy. It does show that Israel Dagg is now seen as the first choice full-back ahead of 98 test veteran Mils Muliana, and that Cory Jane and Richard Kahui have taken the lead in the ongoing battle to be first choice wingers. Piri Weepu wins the weekly battle of the halfbacks while Jimmy Cowan, generally seen as one of the top two battling to start, is out of the match day 22 altogether, after a strong performance from Andy Ellis against Japan. Adam Thomson is preferred to Victor Vito who is another interesting omission from the reserves – New Zealand have named two specialist locks and no loose forwards as injury cover. Sam Whitelock is again preferred to Ali Williams for the second locking spot.

The outcome of this match was always going to depend heavily on the mentality of the two teams involved. France are famously, or infamously, mercurial and one never knows which team will turn up on the day – but they do have a world cup history of turning up against the All Blacks. Still, qualification is not on the line here and there is a feeling that their hearts may just not be in this one.

Kick off: 8:30pm NZ time / 8:30am GMT / 10:30am Central European Standard Time.

Starting Line-Ups – New Zealand vs France Rugby World Cup 2011

New Zealand Starting XV

15 Israel Dagg
14 Cory Jane
13 Conrad Smith
12 Ma’a Nonu
11 Richard Kahui
10 Dan Carter
9 Piri Weepu
1 Tony Woodcock
2 Keven Mealamu
3 Owen Franks
4 Brad Thorn
5 Sam Whitelock
6 Jerome Kaino
7 Richie McCaw (capt)
8 Adam Thomson

Replacements

16 Andrew Hore
17 Ben Franks
18 Ali Williams
19 Anthony Boric
20 Andy Ellis
21 Colin Slade
22 Sonny Bill Williams

France Starting XV

15 Damien Traille
14 Vincent Clerc
13 Aurélien Rougerie
12 Maxime Mermoz
11 Maxime Médard
10 Morgan Parra
9 Dimitri Yachvili
1 Jean-Baptiste Poux
2 Dimitri Szarzewski
3 Luc Ducalcon
4 Lionel Nallet
5 Pascale Papé
6 Thierry Dusautoir (capt)
7 Julien Bonnaire
8 Louis Picamoles

Replacements

16 William Servat
17 Fabien Barcella
18 Julien Pierre
19 Imanol Harinordoquy
20 Francois Trinh-Duc
21 Fabrice Estebanez
22 Cédric Heymans

About Michael Gardner

Michael Gardner
Michael Gardner is at the Rugby World Cup 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand, providing first-hand coverage of the action on the pitch.

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