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Space to exploit behind French wall

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Sportal.co.nz     14 Jun 2013     Getty Images

Second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu said there was a lot of space behind that wall if the All Blacks could utilise it, but the French were a side who, if they turned over New Zealand's ball, were inclined to attack rather than kick the ball downfield to gain territory. And that increased the pressure for certainty when taking on 'the wall'.

"We saw it when they played the Blues [in midweek], and turned over the ball, they started attacking every time, even from their own line, so they're not scared to play," he said.

Taking advantage of the space behind came down to communication in getting the word to the likes of first five-eighths Aaron Cruden.

But, again, there were instances when France had three fullbacks, as their wings dropped back to assist.

"Test rugby is pretty hard because you paint a different picture every time. The winger may be flat but then he just drops back straight away as the ball goes in the scrum. It gets pretty loud out there, especially at Eden Park, but hopefully we can get the calls out there this weekend," he said.

Nonu said he knew what pressure was about because he always seemed to be under it but pressure was something you walked towards, it wasn't something you hid away from.

Nonu was ready for whatever choice France made. He expected that Fofana would be retained but if Basteraud was selected he was prepared. Fofana was more of a distributor and a runner while Basteraud was used more at centre to run 'front ball lines' and taking the ball up.

He rated his defensive effort as 50 percent last week and said he was caught flat-footed when not pushing up off the line when he held for the decoy runner and then got stuck.

"I could have got across but I didn't work hard enough," he said. "Hopefully this week I won't get taken out by decoys, I got taken out in the second half as well."

He said it was a case of coming up on the inside [of the attacker] pretty fast and not turning the inside shoulder out.

Before attacking options could be considered, and especially unleashing the power of big left wing Julian Savea, it all came down to getting the set piece right, he said.

A big effort had gone into breakdown preparation after the All Blacks had too much ball turned over in that area which he put down to rustiness and individual mistakes, trying to offload the ball and too many 50-50 options.