All Blacks will test level of French improvement

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    26 Nov 2016     Getty Images

It is the end of a full-on year of rugby for the All Blacks in the wake of their 2015 Rugby World Cup success but the French are building towards a Six Nations campaign to get their game back on the road after their quarter-final exit at New Zealand's hands last year – the 13-62 defeat in Cardiff.

Picamoles hasn't forgotten that game, it was a bad memory, he told Le Figaro, but so much in both teams had changed that there was no comparison.

"Between us, this week, we do not speak of victory. We focus on our progress to achieve. Progress is our main goal. And for that, there is nothing better than to face the best," he said.

Much had been made about the All Blacks' ability to come home strongly in the final quarter of games and Picamoles said that was because they maintained their intensity for 80 minutes when many opponents couldn't last at that rate for more than 50-60 minutes.

Opponents began to flounder in their tactical options but because the All Blacks were playing at a constant standard they were able to punish sides.

While Ireland had upset the All Blacks in Chicago, they had produced another big effort at home in Dublin but had been unable to score a try.

"The All Blacks are therefore the reference…the No.1 team by far.

"We know we will play against the very best when playing them. If we want to be among the best teams in the world, we must be inspired," he said.

France were disappointed with their breakdown work against Australia and realising that would be a key area against New Zealand they had been working on that part of their game this week.

"We lacked a bit of aggression in the rucks and we'll be happier if we can get more ball in this area," he said.

The choice of three No.8s to play in the loose forwards was developing with Charles Ollivon and Kevin Gourdon evolving in their roles.

"We enjoy playing together and gradually we will find our bearings and become more complementary to each other.

"I think we are in tune with the running game, and have the support of the coaches in taking some risks. Everyone has bought into it and that is great for the team," he said.

Picamoles goes into the game as the only member of the French side to have been in a winning team against the All Blacks.

"It is quite rare to beat them, especially in New Zealand. It will remain a great moment in my career. I do not remember the whole game but I still have some great memories from it," he said.