Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe on the All Blacks: Sneaky French tactics a thing of the past

Pascal Ondarts once head-butted the wall. Photo / Getty Images
Pascal Ondarts once head-butted the wall. Photo / Getty Images

I don't think there is any way the French will come out employing filth against the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup final tonight.

Some think they may use that as shock tactics - and you've got to say they have done so before against the All Blacks, beating us in Nantes in 1986 and in 1999 at the Rugby World Cup.

But the game has changed so much, it is so well policed now; anyone trying the nasty stuff will get caught quickly. The game can turn even on a yellow card, let alone a red and all professional players know that; even the French.

I will never forget coming out to play them in one test and seeing Pascal Ondarts head-butt the wall, causing himself to bleed and then he head-butted the other prop, Laurent Seigne, so they were both bleeding. I thought: 'God Almighty, what have we got here?' but the plain fact is that if Sam Warburton got three weeks for what he did the other day, you'd be counting in years if any of the French pulled the stuff they did in 1986 and 1999.

There's another thing - the game is so fast now that all the carry-on of yesteryear in the deep, dark places tends not to occur so much now because the ball - and the game - moves on so much more quickly.

The real "enforcing" happens at the ruck these days. The game has bigger, faster athletes and the collisions are bigger; the hits are bigger. They tend to happen in and around rucks as, when one guy goes in like a half-opened pocket knife to get the ball, along comes an opponent on a 100km/h clear-out and bam! If there has been any funny business going on, that's where the wrongs are righted as players line up the transgressor and hit him legally.

I saw Brad Thorn called "The Enforcer" the other day but that's a bit fanciful.

He has done nothing to earn that title; he has always kept his discipline.

But the guys in the other team know that he's there and that they can't get away with too much.

It's a bit like Bakkies Botha for the Boks - although it's a little different with him. His opponents know they can't get away with anything silly, or he might take a head off. Sure, he might get a red card too but there is always that intimidation factor.

Owen Franks is another who doesn't take prisoners in the contact phases and I think he hit something like 40 rucks and mauls in the semifinal against the Wallabies. I am sure that, if any Frenchmen are fiddling with the family jewels, they'll get an uncomfortable visit from Franks in the ruck.

So I don't think foul play or violence will be a big issue tonight - and I think the All Blacks will begin with that same intensity they brought to the Australian match.

If they keep the acid on, kick their goals, keep the pace up and take their chances, I think there is a great chance that the All Blacks will really do it to France tonight.

The French tactics will likely be to slow the game down, to work through the set pieces, defend frustratingly well and kick the goals - and maybe they will keep the ball in hand and not try the high kicking game that failed so miserably for the Wallabies.

There are about half a dozen really good players in the French team but, after the tournament they have had and the form and game plan they have shown so far, you can't expect them to come out and throw the ball round in a dazzling fashion and take the All Blacks by storm.

No, I am picking the All Blacks to do it comfortably and by scoring tries.

The French will kick a few goals and maybe a drop goal but, even if they are in touch with the All Blacks at halftime, they will be almost knackered by the effort and the All Blacks will pull away in the second half.

I'm picking a scoreline of something like 38-9.

- Herald on Sunday

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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