Preview: New Zealand v France
Sportal.co.nz 20 Jun 2013 Getty Images
HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 53, New Zealand 40, France 12, Drawn 1
LAST TIME: New Zealand 30 def France 0, 2013 at AMI Stadium, Christchurch
WALKING WOUNDED: Brice Dulin has had reward after his recovery from groin surgery to start at fullback on Saturday. Prop Thomas Domingo has been named to play but is in doubt after a back injury suffered in the second Test and if he is unable to play Vincent Debaty, who was not included in the reserves would be a straight replacement. Remi Tales will start after injury forced Frederic Michalak out of consideration. It will be his second Test. Antonie Claasen, the son of the captain of the 1981 Springboks in New Zealand Waynand Claasen, will start at No.8 in place of the injured Louis Picamoles.
New Zealand have first five-eighths Dan Carter ready to resume after injury kept him out of the first and second Tests of the series. Missing from the New Zealand side is hooker Dane Coles who has suffered a calf injury. First five-eighths Aaron Cruden, halfback Aaron Smith, flanker Liam Messam and wing Julian Savea have been rested from the game.
FORM: France face a difficult task after the mentally debilitating loss suffered in the second Test. In spite of taking the attack to New Zealand, the French twice were unable to benefit from sustained periods on attack and once the home side absorbed the French pressure they quickly turned things around in breakouts that resulted in tries at the other end of the field. Picamoles' loss is substantial for the side and pressure will be on Claasen to replicate the role. Having such an untried combination in the inside backs where halfback Jean Marc Doussain and first five-eighths Remi Tales have three Tests between them is crucial, especially with the experience of Weepu and Carter returning to the New Zealand side.
New Zealand could not have asked for better under difficult conditions in Christchurch but New Plymouth appears likely to give them that chance with poor weather, and a heavy underfoot track likely to influence proceedings. But with the Rugby Championship the next outing for the side there is the need for a good dress rehearsal and a chance for more confidence-boosting play ahead of that series.
WE THINK: It is the end of a long, hard season for France, and on the back of a soul-destroying loss in the second Test, this may prove to be a Test too far. Coach Philippe Saint-Andre says there have been benefits from the tour ahead of the Test but he will be looking for an improved show of defiance to at least keep the sharks at bay at home. However, the lesson of the defeat suffered by Ireland in last year's third Test tempts comparison, especially given the comparative youth of the side. New Zealand will be in no mood to let their determination slip and if they are able to gain anything like a set-piece dominance they should carry too many guns for France. We pick New Zealand by 15.
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