Julian Savea: France will still be hurting from 2015 defeat

By Gregor Paul in Paris

Julian Savea on his way to a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 Quarter Final between France and the All Blacks. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Julian Savea on his way to a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 Quarter Final between France and the All Blacks. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The last time Julian Savea played France, he left a trail of destruction. He scored one of the more memorable hat-tricks that had Frenchmen flying in all directions as they tried to stop him.

He'd had a quiet year up until then, suddenly bursting into life with a performance in Cardiff that made it impossible not to draw comparisons with the late Jonah Lomu.

It was Savea at his brilliant best - direct, explosive, determined, deadly and inspiring.

There's no doubt his ability to run over the top of defenders acted as a signal to this team-mates that there was potential to put together a special performance. France were crushed physically and mentally and had the white flag flying with 20 minutes to go.

It was a glorious night for Savea and a glorious night for the All Blacks who defeated the French 62-13 in the World Cup quarter final. And Savea and the All Blacks would rather like to experience a similarly glorious night in Paris when they had to the Stade de France at the ungodly local hour of 9pm on Saturday.

The comparisons between the respective build ups are not too dissimilar - especially in Savea's case. Just like last year he didn't get going in Super Rugby, lacked fitness and confidence and is only now pushing towards being his true self.

One outstanding half of rugby aside against the Wallabies at Eden Park, it hasn't been a vintage year for Savea. He's been solid rather than spectacular which is how he came into the test against France last year.

Something happened that night last year and he knows it and has spent a bit of time looking back in the last few days trying to tap into what it was.

"That week," he says, "it built right and just got bone-deep, and we talked about a few things, the history, losing to France in the quarterfinals in the past.

"I didn't play in that team but I knew that feeling watching as a spectator and as a country we were very hurt."

This time round, the All Blacks don't have the same well of hurt to delve into. They do, however, know that the French have all the pain in the world living with them as the World Cup defeat was a demoralising and humiliating experience for them.

As they came off the field, French supporters booed and jeered aggressively when former coach Philippe St Andre - no longer with the team - was spotted on the big screen.

Savea knows that as much as the memories of that night sit somewhere in the back of his mind, for the French players, they are very much at the forefront.

"They'll be hurting from that [2015] game and these guys don't forget anything, so they're definitely coming in wanting to rewrite that," Savea said.

"As a team I think they expect a physical battle up front. I think at the weekend they pretty much won all the scrums against Australia. I am pretty sure they are not worrying about me they will be focusing on what the team is going to bring.

"They have beaten us before and they can beat us again and they always seem to get up for us. It shows in history that we have this last game becomes a banana-slip sort of game, but we have to park that and really bring the edge."

- NZ Herald

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