France embrace All Blacks challenge in opening match

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When the draw was made in 2020, he said playing the All Blacks was 'wonderful' for France.

"We're starting a World Cup at home against the best team in the world, one that has won the title three times and has never been beaten in a pool match: 31 wins out of 31 since 1987 in nine World Cups.

"We French love the All Blacks. They're a team that inspires us and that we've always come up against. Out of their last 10 meetings with France, nine victories.

"Our last match was two years ago [a 40-25 win to France]. In the history of our sport, they're the finest team in the world, with the finest players."

Galthie confirmed centre Jonathan Danty was still a chance to play the All Blacks.

"He's following an adapted training programme for his injury. He's being monitored by the trainers, by the physiotherapists. He took part in all the training sessions today [Sunday] – they were at a moderate pace, at a walking pace. Depending on how he progresses, we'll decide whether to include him in the match-day squad announced on Wednesday.

"He hasn't been ruled out. He had a muscle problem."

Lock Paul Willemse was not so fortunate. Galthie said he had suffered recurrent muscle problems over the past four years. Everything had been done for him, but he was injured on Wednesday, and it was decided to replace him in the tournament team. He has been replaced by Bastien Chalureau, a player embroiled in court proceedings after he was placed on a six-month suspended sentence for assault.

France captain Antoine Dupont is looking forward to a clash with Aaron Smith.

"I watched him on TV when I was younger, he was a world-class player then and I admire his game a lot. Despite his age, he still has the speed and quality of pass. He is a very important link in the All Blacks' chain with his ability to inject speed."

When asked what sort of All Blacks team to expect in Paris – the Rugby Championship winners or the side beaten by South Africa, he said, "If you look at their World Cup record, they remain the greatest team in the world in this tournament. They have several players with more than 100 caps, they know how to play big games. We can be sure they will be prepared for Friday because they have the experienced and ability to play such matches."


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