Millennium Stadium, 20:00 Saturday
You may not have heard this, because it’s hardly been mentioned at all, but France have some form for beating New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup. 1999 and 2007 saw legendary wins for Les Bleus and some clever types have pointed out the eight year gap meaning another one is due plus the game being played in the Millennium Stadium again as good portent for a French victory. This is all complete bollocks.
There are notable differences between the France squad that will take the field on Saturday and those that triumphed previously; the late nineties France squad won the Grand Slam in 1997 and 1998; the mid-noughties squad were Six Nations champs in 2006 and 2007; this current shower have the record of fourth, fourth, last, fourth in the recent championships. The earlier versions of France had more genuine gamebreakers in their ranks, this one has Scott Spedding. Also, just use your rugby sense and look at this French team, their performances are about as convincing as Mathieu Bastareaud putting on an Ireland shirt and pretending to be Paul O’Connell.
Added to this, the All Black team is terrifying; like 15 grim reapers with extra pace. France in 99 and 07 were a lesser outfit than New Zealand, but this France – Dusautoir and a couple of others aside – look a lesser species.
Rumour has it that the France team have gone into full revolution mode against pastry tyrant Phillipe Saint-Andre and are now training themselves, like Clubber Lang in Rocky III. Some will see this as the type of bonkers move that could see them spring a surprise, but that is the hope of the hopeless romantic writ large. Clubber lost convincingly in the end and so will France.
B&M Predition: New Zealand by 15
Spotter’s Badge: Brice Dulin pulling the “oh shit!” face a split second before Savea runs into him.
France: Scott Spedding; Noa Nakaitaci, Alexandre Dumoulin, Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin; Frédéric Michalak, Morgan Parra; Eddy Ben Arous, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Pascal Papé, Yoann Maestri, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Bernard Le Roux, Louis Picamoles
Replacements Dimitri Szarzewski, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Damien Chouly, Yannick Nyanga, Rory Kockott, Rémi Talès, Mathieu Bastareaud
New Zealand: B Smith; N Milner-Skudder, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith; K Read, R McCaw (capt), J Kaino, S Whitelock, B Retallick, O Franks, D Coles, W Crockett.
Replacements K Mealamu, J Moody, C Faumuina, V Vito, S Cane, T Kerr-Barlow, B Barrett, SB Williams.