All Blacks: France a 'hard side to break down'

By Gregor Paul in Paris

The public perception of France is that they are a wildly erratic side who rely on flair. The All Blacks see them entirely differently - citing France's discipline and ability to stick to their strengths as their key weapons.

Those were the conclusions drawn in June when the All Blacks won the series 3-0 but were pushed hard in tests one and three.

The first test was particularly close and if Louis Picamoles had held a simple pass with 15 minutes remaining and scored under the posts as he would have, then the outcome may have been different.

"It is probably an overused word I think," said assistant coach Ian Foster in regard to the notorious French flair. "In the past there has been a flair to their game, but there probably hasn't been as much attention to some of the detail.

"What we are seeing now is a very disciplined French team. Three tests in June - set-piece, defence, breakdown, the core parts of their game, we saw a lot of discipline and they were a hard side to break down."

It would be natural to expect the French to be a tougher side to beat in Paris than they were in New Zealand. They rarely lose Six Nations games in Paris and even if they occasionally lack accuracy at home, they live off emotion and passion and deliver greater intensity.

"We saw in June how tough these matches are. When you come to France they just seem to come up a couple of cogs from that. You have got two nations with a great history against each other and there is a lot of respect for how they play from us."

Yet, despite France's reputation as a better side at home, the All Blacks have an impressive record in Paris. They haven't lost in the French capital since 1973 and have won 10 of their 13 encounters in France. Their last defeat here came in Marseilles 13 years ago and in 2004 and 2006, the All Blacks romped to record victories.

Clearly, being in France does something to lift the All Blacks as much as it does the home side - something they will be hoping for again on Saturday.

"We want to be aggressive," says Foster. "We want to be bold in terms of how we play. I am not sure what being bold means for them - I would imagine doing what they do well. They have a physical pack - the set-piece and breakdown are the core parts of their game."

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