Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby World Cup 2015: All Blacks crush France in Cardiff

All Blacks winger Nehe Milner-Skudder celebrates scoring against France in the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter-final in Cardiff. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Blacks winger Nehe Milner-Skudder celebrates scoring against France in the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter-final in Cardiff. Photo / Brett Phibbs

All Blacks 62 France 13
A penny for the thoughts of Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer as he watched this All Blacks' quarter-final demolition job of France hours after his side desperately fought for their victory over Wales in the other last-eight match of the day.

The two old rivals will meet at Twickenham in a semifinal next Sunday morning and on this stunning evidence the All Blacks will be hot favourites.

The All Blacks were helped by the second-half sinbinning of No8 Louis Picamoles for a punch to the face of prone skipper Richie McCaw. The defending champions scored a try through Jerome Kaino while he was off to make it 34-13 but in truth the game had already slipped away from them.

In the end it was a rout, a record quarter-final score at a World Cup, a victory to make a mockery of all the doubt and angst surrounding the performance of this team in pool play.

The All Blacks didn't so much as break their shackles but smash them to smithereens.

It was a clinical, ruthless performance and some of the handling - a bit ordinary at times over the past month - was simply breathtaking.

Boks coach Meyer, a man who squirms his way through most of his team's matches no matter how they play, will know the challenge ahead of his team because the All Blacks were at their brilliant best at the Millennium Stadium.

The Boks scored one try thanks to a piece of brilliance from their No8 Duane Vermuelen when he got a pass away to halfback Fourie de Preez. The All Blacks scored nine. The difference between the two contests could hardly have been greater because this one was over by halftime.

Deja vu after their nightmare exit against the same side at the same stage of the tournament at the same stadium? Non, non, and non. The French, playing in their alternate red strip, weren't allowed to pose a serious threat because they played almost the entire match on the back foot.

How good were the French? Not great, apart from No12 Wesley Fofana, who was good. But no team can live with the All Blacks in this form.

With Dan Carter at his languid and yet powerful best, the All Blacks' backs cut loose - Julian Savea showing his immense pace and power with three tries, the second coming after he went through both his opposite Noa Nokaitaci and fullback Scott Spedding. It came late in the first half and it was his side's fourth try, a reply to Picamoles' for France minutes earlier.

Brodie Retallick, with a charge down of Freddy Michalak's attempted clearance, got the big New Zealand support on their feet early and they were up again when Nehe Milner-Skudder scored on the right after a rare Carter mistake - a charged down drop goal attempt.

Carter was in the action again with a brilliant assist for Savea, a palm off for lock Pascal Pape and a flick out the back for Savea to do the rest. But it was the big Hurricanes' wing's second try which really pleased those wearing black here. Going into this game after missing the Tonga match, he needed a big performance, a warning to all of the threat he possesses, and it was here that he provided it with a try Jonah Lomu-esque in its brutality.

His hat-trick came in the second half, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow scoring a double after replacing Aaron Smith at halfback.

By then the All Blacks were playing for fun. Even the big Irish support in the crowd was impressed. Jerome Kaino scored, as did Kieran Read after a brilliant break and assist by Charlie Faumuina. Not to be outdone, prop Joe Moody, a surprise replacement for Wyatt Crockett after only 28 minutes, went on a dab and slipped an offload for Kerr-Barlow's second.

Brilliant, brilliant stuff; a boost in confidence at just the right time before they face the Boks at Twickenham.

All Blacks 62 (Julian Savea 3, Tawera Kerr-Barlow 2, Brodie Retallick, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read tries; Dan Carter pen, 7 cons)
France 13 (Louis Picamoles try; Scott Spedding pen, Morgan Parra pen, con)
Halftime: 29-13

- Patrick McKendry at the Millennium Stadium

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