France pin hopes on ironclad defence against Black Ferns

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French coach Thomas Darracq said New Zealand had modified its game under a new coaching regime since they played last year, and dealing with that offered new challenges.

"This big game will be like what we experienced against England. It will be a question of strengthening, of power. We know that we will have to be very powerful upfront.

"They have the ability to press hard with the pack, to be able to free their three-quarter line with a game which seems very simple but which is hard to implement, and the switch of a direct game towards the outside with a lot of speed."

New Zealand's technical ability was well known.

"We will have to respond defensively, but we also need to bring our power game to put our game in place and win the metres essential to success in big games.

When beating Italy in their quarterfinal, they had applied defensive intensity correctly and denied them the chance to attack.

"It's just a pressure game. It's leaning on our strong defence. We imagine New Zealand will be at a very high level playing at home in front of their fans.

"We will have to find a way to balance defensive intensity to respond to this speed of play and that requires the ability to win key battles. We will need to work as a team to challenge them and win.

"The pressure will be on New Zealand in front of 40,000 people.

"I'm not sure the Black Ferns have played this kind of game before, even those who played in the Olympics in Tokyo.

"Everyone will face an atmosphere that women's rugby will discover for the first time in this stadium. We have to make it our own. We have to find the positive levers because we need to get into the game immediately.

"If we let this New Zealand team get ahead, if we give them space and they score points, then it will be more difficult. It's a great challenge."

Captain Gaëlle Hermet said the favouritism was with New Zealand.

"Ninety per cent of the group are playing in our first World Cup and our first semifinal.

"Saturday's match is about playing to our fullest because afterwards, we have the possibility of opening a door to go to the final, something unheard of for a women's French squad."

While they had beaten New Zealand in their last four Tests, the World Cup was another competition.

There would be pressure on both sides. Both sides had semifinal pressure, but New Zealand had the pressure of playing at home.

"What will make the different on Saturday is everything we have built since the beginning of the competition – our state of mind, our defence, our strength, our physical qualities. We just want to be united to face this strong Black Ferns team," she said.


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