The French can list All Black assistant coach Steve Hansen as an ally as the sides approach their intriguing Rugby World Cup duel.

Hansen is not in cahoots with any of his rivals' selections but he defended France's right to pick a novice alliance of two halfbacks for their clash at Eden Park on Saturday.

He cited the selection of Richard Kahui on the wing as an example of how selectors altered their ideas.

"The first time we picked Richard Kahui to play on the wing people thought we were crazy," he said. "It hasn't turned out too badly.


"You've just go to allow them to do what they think is right for their team and they've done that.

"Who are we to say what is their best combination at halfback and first five for this test match? I certainly am not going to challenge them on it, that is what they have done. We have to respect that.

"I think it's a really good side and their coach has picked what he thinks is the best team for this competition so we will treat them with the utmost respect as we always do."

The All Blacks' task was to prepare well and then translate that into action on the park, he said.

Many in the squad had returned to Auckland revitalised after a team camp in Christchurch where they viewed some of the damage the earthquakes had caused and spoke to many of the victims.

In the interim, the tournament had been rocked by Ireland's win against the Wallabies, but Hansen said the upset at Eden Park had not altered the All Blacks' mindset. Their aim was to win on Saturday and qualify top of their pool for the playoffs.

All sorts of other permutations were possible and those had been doing the rounds because of the media's preoccupation with the topic, he said. The All Blacks could not control how France played, Hansen said, that was their prerogative.

Hansen said his side's aim was to play well and triumph. Otherwise they would need to beat Canada in their final pool game to qualify.


The All Blacks needed to be in a strong emotional state to combat France, who were at their most dangerous when they combined that with their natural skills, he said.

The sides had some special history and while there had been some mismatches, the majority had been great contests.

"The intensity at training has been noticeable," he said. "When we come into big tests and there is an uncertainty about the result, subconsciously or otherwise, players rise up in intensity and that comes out in training."

But the All Blacks' assistant coach warned against over-analysis. The coaches and team management needed to make sure all that information did not weigh the All Blacks down, he said. It was the same with statistics.

"We have to do all the hard work and then present what is necessary to the players," Hansen said.

In answer to a question about "throwing" matches, Hansen guessed anything was possible.

"But if you are suggesting we are going out to underperform, then we would get hung from the highest tree in New Zealand," he said.

"If we were to go out and try and lose a test match ... it is just not in our psyche.

"New Zealanders expect the All Blacks - and rightly so - to go out there and play the best they can against whomever it is, whether it is a World Cup tournament or a normal test series.

"Whether that is right or not might be debatable, but we will be going out to play the best we can."