All Blacks: France looking to break drought

By Daniel Richardson

Thierry Dusautoir of France stretches during a France rugby training session at Onewa Domain. Photo / Getty Images.
Thierry Dusautoir of France stretches during a France rugby training session at Onewa Domain. Photo / Getty Images.

France haven't beaten the All Blacks in a series since 1994 and the man who captained them during that successful trip Down Under is now their coach.

Philippe Saint-Andre led Les Bleus to a 2-0 win over the All Blacks in the mid-1990s, which included a rare win at Eden Park when New Zealand lost the second test 23-20 to Jean-Luc Sadourny's famous late try.

Now Saint-Andre will try to mastermind a French assault on the New Zealanders during the three-match series that gets underway in Auckland next Saturday followed by tests in Christchurch and New Plymouth.

France have long held the 'unpredictable' tag in world rugby and that intrigue has only been enhanced as Saint-Andre has brought a 35-strong squad to New Zealand that is missing big names Vincent Clerc, Pascal Pape and Francois Trinh-Duc through injury or lack of form.

There are eight uncapped players within the French ranks with a few others who have only played a handful of internationals.

France skipper Thierry Dusautoir encouraged his young tyros to play without fear against an All Black team who will be without Richie McCaw who is still on his sabbatical.

"We hope that the guys are going to express themselves as they should if you are going to play against the best team in the world,'' Dusautoir said.

He was also well aware of the significance of Saint-Andre's influence on the side given he captained France to their 2-0 series win nearly 20 years ago.

"Winning here is always a chance for us to make history,'' Dusautoir said. "So it's true that he was the captain that time and he talked about it, what he felt at the moment when he won the two test matches against New Zealand.''

France shocked New Zealand 27-22 in Dunedin in 2009 when they toured here with a relatively green squad before the All Blacks bounced back in the second test to square the series, which has a similar feel to this year's tour.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen confirmed his 32-strong squad today, (sunday) which was highlighted by six potential debutants with Kieran Read named as captain in McCaw's absence.

Dusautoir, 31, said France needed to focus on themselves rather than get swept up in the occasion of meeting the All Blacks.

"I think the most important thing is to play our rugby without thinking we are playing against the All Blacks,'' he said.

''[We must be] confident enough to express ourselves. We are going to see at the end of the game if we are able to beat the All Blacks. I don't think that you have to think `we are going to win' you have to think `we are going to give our best'.''

The last time the All Blacks met France it was at Eden Park when New Zealand won their second World Cup with a gritty 8-7 win in the final.

On that October night in 2011, Dusautoir was a warrior for the French as he was named man of the match and Les Bleus will need more of the same if they want to compete with the All Blacks during the next few weeks.

Following the first test next weekend, France will also meet Sir John Kirwan's Blues in a tour match on June 11 at North Harbour Stadium.

- APNZ

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