France have lurched along since Philippe St Andre took over as coach after the last World Cup.

They've won less than 50 per cent of their tests, lost all four rematches against the All Blacks since that final and wobbled through the Six Nations.

However they are right in the All Blacks crosshairs for their 2007 RWC rematch at Cardiff on Sunday. There are many reasons for that concentration but one in particular. Thierry Dusautoir.

The French captain sustains his side as his rival skipper Richie McCaw has done through his celebrated career. While McCaw has channelled the All Blacks' focus in their remarkable record since 2011, Dusautoir's impact has been more variable.

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He has been injured while coach St Andre has made some unusual selection decisions. There's been the preference for the flighty backline commander Frederic Michalak rather than Francois Trinh-Duc and injury has bitten into the impetus from the back three.

Their forward crunch was spasmodic and the necessary French backline elan was missing against Ireland when the teams squared off with the loser to meet the All Blacks.

Ireland shed a heap of injured troops but France lost the skirmish and return to the Cardiff sporting cathedral on Sunday for the sudden-death confrontation against the All Blacks.

This will be the teams' seventh RWC meeting with the score at 4-2 in the All Blacks favour. Last time in Cardiff though and all that....

Dusautoir played that night when France stunned their rivals and the world with their 20-18 victory. The French flanker was an injury replacement for the tournament but his form was spectacular and he scored a try and made 38 tackles-more than the entire NZ side-in that contentious quarterfinal result.

Four years later he scored a try as he led his team to an extraordinary single point defeat after the All Blacks trounced them 37-17 in pool play.

That time, just like this, the All Blacks are the team to beat and playing at a level above France. Four years ago France resisted for as long as they could and as the score stayed close, their confidence grew to a level where they believed they could win.

"During the match we played well but we would have liked to have scored a drop goal on top of the great defence we produced. But we played an uncomplicated game and that is ultimately how we managed to surprise them so much," Dusautoir said.

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The modest graduate chemical engineer forgot to mention his massive impact and galvanising leadership. On Sunday he and McCaw, a year older and with 65 more caps, will duke it out again for their teams' right to move on or pack their luggage.