Key Points:

Christian Califano could have been forgiven for thinking his days of pulling on the French jersey were gone.

After all, France's most-capped prop last appeared for the national team four years ago in a 15-12 loss to Ireland.

But the 35-year-old is one of the beneficiaries of a tour that French officialdom didn't want.

With the bulk of France's best back home on duty as the domestic championship reaches its climax, a batch of untested rookies, leavened with a few old hands, are here for two tests, starting at Eden Park on Saturday.

Califano, who spent the 2002 Super 12 season with the Blues - one start, five appearances, niggling injuries - fullback Thomas Castaignede and flanker Olivier Magne will all run out on Saturday in a last hurrah on New Zealand soil with their eyes on sneaking a spot in the World Cup squad.

Castaignede will be playing his 53rd test; Magne his 89th. It will be Califano's 71st test and his ninth against the All Blacks. His record is impressive. Four wins, four losses, dating back to their memorable 2-0 series win in 1994.

If he glances back at his chums that day at Lancaster Park he'll see a team far superior to those he'll be alongside this weekend.

The backs included Philippe Saint Andre, Emile Ntamack, Philippe Sella, Thierry Lacroix and Jean Luc Sadourny; up front Abdel Benazzi, Olivier Roumat, the openside flier Laurent Cabannes and the hulking bruiser Olivier Merle. Some team. What coach Bernard Laporte wouldn't give for that lot right now.

Califano knows Saturday might be his only chance to bid for a World Cup place. Laporte has signalled that only a handful of spots remain.

Was he surprised to get the call? Yes and no. Yes, because he's four years on the outer; no, because he reckoned he had been playing good football for Gloucester this year.

He missed the test environment, enjoyed playing rugby at the highest level and as for talk of pressure, forget it. Been there, done that.

"I don't play with pressure. Where is the pressure? It's a simple game," he said.

"It's a hard game because the All Blacks are now the best team in the world. For younger players it's a new experience. Maybe they are fragile."

His advice to them? Respect their opponents, and play at 120 per cent.

The new men will look to the gnarly warriors for inspiration. No one gives them a chance on Saturday. Just like Athletic Park in June 1999 when the All Blacks whipped an uninterested mob 54-7.

Four months later, France turned the World Cup on its head, winning their semifinal 43-31 against an All Black team including 10 from Athletic Park.

So, what chance on Saturday? A long pause, then "I am working for this. I respect the jersey, and my team, and that they've given a chance to an old player."