Tactics from All Blacks will depend heavily on French game plan


James Mortimer     08 Nov 2013     getty

Only the French have the ability to match their opponents this weekend and play the same open and ball handling attacking game that weaves like poetry when in full flow.

While Les Bleus may not resemble the artistic sides of the past, they still have the ability to grind and pound against the All Blacks, and this has yielded some close results for the French in the rivalry, even if sometimes the margins go the other way.

France have a tendency to try and play the same expressive style of play the All Blacks utilise, hence why they have conceded some mammoth scores to the Kiwis unlike their other classic rivalries against tier one rugby nations.

The hosts greatest success has come when they have forced the contest into a bare knuckle fight.

In 1999, that infamous Rugby World Cup elimination, it was flair that engineered that famous French comeback, but eight years later in Cardiff it was resolute defence and forward prowess that won the day.

It is the latter which coach Philippe Saint-Andre will likely rely on in Paris this weekend.

Seven straight losses to the All Blacks support the fact that these visitors rank among the best their nation has produced, while France as always has this creepy aura of unpredictability.

There has been some quiet whispering from the French headquarters that they will play an expansive game.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster didn’t expect anything to complicated from the 2011 World Cup runners-up.

“Their physicality at set piece and the breakdown are their core strengths,” Foster said.

“I can't see them moving away from that part of the game.”

The French have a reputation for playing a sublime game that cannot be countered when on song, with their famous Tests in 1994 in New Zealand coming to mind, as well as the high scoring affair in Marseille, where Les Bleus won 42-33 in 2000.

World Champions and the number one ranked side New Zealand know however they have history and supportive firepower this time around to continue a fine record in France and extend their unbeaten run here to beyond 13 years.

It only takes one Test though for an underdog with a penchant for playing that card perfectly to upset the apple cart, as the French almost did at Eden Park late in 2011.

Saint-Andre and his troops will hope they become the first French outfit since 2009 to take down the All Blacks, and their advantage could lie in dictating the style of play, for otherwise the World Champions could run around the fields of Paris in try-scoring mode for the entire contest.