Sean Fitzpatrick is a former All Blacks captain and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Sean Fitzpatrick: Ruthless All Blacks' coup de grace

All Blacks winger Richard Kahui is tackled. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Blacks winger Richard Kahui is tackled. Photo / Brett Phibbs

I have to say I was a happy hooker last night. The French started strongly, the All Blacks weathered the storm and then exploited the French deficiencies in this crucial Rugby World Cup clash.

The scrum was good, the lineout was good and they had three opportunities in the first half and took them all.

It was like in the Tri Nations - they pressed the boot down on the throat and kept it there.

They worked hard at the breakdown, a key point of contact in this World Cup, and really out-muscled the French there; demonstrably so, winning the game.

I thought Jerome Kaino was outstanding, and I have to take my hat off to Adam Thomson as well. I wasn't sure he was the way to go but he played really well.

Piri Weepu was great at No 9 and really helped set the All Blacks up in the first half.

I must also congratulate Richie McCaw on that magical 100th test. Maybe No8 isn't his best position, however, but he will be steaming up at the sharp end of this tournament, I know.

As well as Thomson played, it is clear that the All Blacks need Kieran Read back to be really at their peak in the loose trio - and it was a bit of a wrench to see Thomson suffering an injury late in the game, with Read still yet to reappear.

Israel Dagg played beautifully and I hope his injury isn't bad either and Dan Carter made decisions well, took his chances, ran well and I loved it that he dropped a goal at the end. Ruthless.

I did not think that French team was all that far off their top outfit. They had some injuries in the front row, Louis Picamoles is regarded as ahead of Imanol Harinordoquy at No8 in Europe and I think he deserved his spot.

The two halfbacks thing was not that far off what the All Blacks are doing. Just as Graham Henry & Co wanted Richard Kahui in there somewhere, so Marc Lievremont wanted Dimitri Yachvili and Morgan Parra in there - Yachvili for his goalkicking and Parra for his creativity.

It wasn't so much a French 'farce' as one writer called it - but it was very French. A bit comme si, comme ca - because the loss means they can still go back into the Northern Hemisphere part of the draw where they will be confident they can win.

- Herald on Sunday

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Sean Fitzpatrick is a former All Blacks captain and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Sean ‘Fitzy’ Fitzpatrick remains one of the greatest rugby players to have graced the game and one of the All Blacks’ most celebrated captains. Throughout his stellar he played 128 matches from 1986 up until his retirement in 1998. His 11 years of captaincy were heralded as some of the most prolific in All Blacks history, including captaining the team to their first ever series win against the Springboks in South Africa in 1996 – a record achievement in its own right.

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