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All Blacks-France history keeps players on edge

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Lynn McConnell     25 Nov 2016     Getty Images

Flanker Jerome Kaino said there was a lot of disappointment for the All Blacks in their games with France and they were aware of the dangers in this match which included an improving France team, avoiding thoughts of heading home after the game and of their own desire to improve on aspects of their game against Ireland last week that they were not happy with.

While the All Blacks were preparing as they always did, they were also putting one foot in the French camp by understanding how they would feel in their first game against New Zealand since last year's World Cup quarter-final rout in Cardiff.

It had been a frustrating couple of weeks for Kaino after Chicago. Not named for Rome he then had the opportunity to play in the return game against Ireland but had to withdraw from consideration due to injury. But he was pleased to have the chance to play this week.

France had changed the shape of their loose forwards. Usually they would have a fetcher and a big focus on the breakdown and while there was attention in that area there was now more interest in ball-carrying players and those players had played a big part in France's attack with the ball in hand.

"France have selected a big team and they will be looking to get the ball into their big ball carriers' hands as much as possible," he said.

While there were some battered bodies after the Ireland game, both he and Matt Todd, the openside flanker, had not played and would be fresh to lead that charge but he was also confident that by kick-off the whole side would be ready for their final challenge of the year.

Halfback TJ Perenara, who will start the Test, said having started in Super Rugby and more often, this year, in Test rugby he was feeling more comfortable in that role which was different and required more thinking on the run as the game evolved, rather than coming on as a sub with an appreciation of how play was going.

Kaino said he was proud of the way the team had carried the torch after losing all their experience after the Rugby World Cup.

"I take my hat off to the coaching staff who did a lot of planning during the season. Us players were aware of it but all we had to do was come in with the right attitude to be able to take that challenge on.

"The guys returning from last year, but also the new guys who have been injected into the squad have all added to that and it's been a really enjoyable season.

"But this is only one year. We've got to continue that next year as well if we're lucky enough to be selected. It's a great challenge and an exciting time. It's not just a one-off, it's a continuing thing," he said.

Perenara said from his earlier involvement with the All Blacks he had noticed the way the transfer of leadership had been developed before the experienced players left, so the likes of Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock were all part of the leadership group before the changeover.

"Those players [who left] helped mould the leaders that we have now…I think the work they did before leaving made that transition a lot smoother," he said.

Perenara said hearing his rival Aaron Smith referred to as the best halfback in the world was not an issue. Smith had earned that description through his play over two or three years and hearing the praise was an incentive for him and other players to aspire to that level.