For All Blacks fans it shouldn't be 2007 or 2011 that worries them ahead of Sunday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France in Cardiff but the most recent encounter two years ago might give more reason for concern.

Yes the All Blacks won 26-19 but the French gave them a hell of a fight. The first hint... Gregor Paul's match report begins: "Raw courage, a bit of luck and some magic from Charlie Piutau saw the All Blacks cling on to victory this morning in Paris."

One of those things will be absent on Sunday (Piuatu) and other could well be (luck).

And it continues..."And they really were clinging. A finger grip is all they had in the final minutes as France threw the kitchen sink at them and came so, so close to scoring the points they would have needed to have at least drawn."


A few key names in that All Blacks' lineup at Stade de France won't be at Millennium Stadium on Sunday. The back three of Israel Dagg, Cory Jane and Piutau never got on the plane after missing out on the World Cup selection. Other that featured included Tony Woodcock who started and Aaron Cruden, Steven Luatua and Ryan Crotty who were on the bench.

All Blacks fullback Ben Smith meanwhile played centre in a brief experiment with Conrad Smith on sabbatical.

The Herald's Wynne Gray wrote: "Only the juicy skill of men like Charles Piutau, Israel Dagg and the unrelenting combat from Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock allowed the All Blacks to repel the French.

"In the wash-up, the All Blacks were saved by their collective grit and several radiant moments from Piutau.

"If the French needed the try from the end of the earth to win at Eden Park in 1994, Piutau delivered an intergalactic offload as he piggybacked two defenders and drew a third to set Read free for the vital try.

"There they were: two men who will be core elements of the All Blacks arsenal as they head towards the World Cup defence in 2015."

Maybe that decision to pick Waisake Naholo over Ulster-bound Piutau will haunt the All Blacks, however he'd be hard pressed to find a starting spot for him this weekend, while it's fair to say Read and Retallick have yet to reach their form from the last two season.

The statistics from that win in Paris also make interesting reading.

Gregor Paul and Patrick McKendry are touring with the All Blacks, and went to the France v Ireland pool match in Cardiff, Hera their opinion and analysis of the knockout match in Cardiff between the All Blacks and France.

According to Rugby Herald stats centre provided by Opta, France had 61 percent possession and enjoyed decent chunks of that inside the All Blacks 22m.

The All Blacks were forced to make 141 tackles, compared to France's 78, missing 26, and lost two scrums from seven. Meanwhile the penalty count was 12-7 against the All Blacks.

A higher penalty count, an average scrum and giving the opposition plenty of ball in your own half isn't ideal in knockout rugby. Cardiff 2007 is the blueprint for that.

There has also been some talk this week how the All Blacks backs will look to target French flyhalf Frederic Michalak, if he starts. The 32-year-old has missed eight tackles in the tournament with a tackle success rate of just 66.7 percent. In comparison Dan Carter has missed three from 17 at 85 percent.

But Carter missed three in that Paris test in 2013, with Ma'a Nonu, playing outside him, missing five tackles. The French might be looking at the same ploy.