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Preview: New Zealand v France

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Sportal.co.nz     13 Jun 2013     Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 52, New Zealand 39, France 12, Draw 1

LAST TIME: New Zealand 23, France 13, Eden Park, 2013

WALKING WOUNDED: New Zealand have returned prop Tony Woodcock and halfback Piri Weepu to the fold, albeit from the bench. Woodcock was recovering from a nasal abscess while Weepu was recovering from a concussion suffered for the Blues, against the Highlanders. France have made four changes to their side, although they are not injury related. Frederic Michalak will start at first five-eighths while South African-born Bernard Le Roux will make his debut.

FORM: By all accounts the All Blacks were viewed as rusty in their first Test win while France had the chance to force the opportunity for a draw in the game, but in the end were unable to come home strongly. They did show anticipated verve, in spite of the relative youth of the side and they demonstrated a unity of purpose that was based on a view to the future rather than immediate success. For all that they showed significant improvement from their Six Nations campaign.

New Zealand have retained the same starting XV for the Test with coach Steve Hansen emphasising that continuity was important at this time of year. But with first five-eighths Dan Carter and lock Sam Whitelock expected to be ready for consideration next week, the second Test represents a chance for players to stake their claim for places in the Rugby Championship squad to be named at the end of the Super Rugby season. The All Blacks will improve on their first Test effort, and there will be more energy expended around the breakdown.

WE THINK: France have the job ahead of them. They let their tactical cat out of the bag in the first Test to show the All Blacks how they wanted to play their game. Unless coach Philippe Saint-Andreu has another significant game plan stowed away the home team know what to expect this time around. As a consequence they will be better prepared. They also had a reminder about the need for clarity in several aspects of their play and that will have been drummed home in the preparation. And if ever it was necessary to demonstrate what could happen if they drop their guard they only needed to recall the way Ireland came at them in last year's second Test which was only won by a Carter dropped goal. For all that, the All Blacks will start as a favourite. We pick New Zealand by 10.