A rugby priority for backrower Bernard le Roux was learning to count to 20, so he could understand lineout calls.

While his name sounds French, le Roux moved from his native South Africa just four years ago and had to learn some of the language quickly to be effective in his preferred sport.

He is one of eight uncapped players in the touring Tricolores but is pushing for selection for Saturday's opening test against the All Blacks.

If le Roux makes the cut he will have an appreciative family audience with his grandparents and other family members flying in from South Africa for the match. He spent a chunk of his 24th birthday yesterday talking about his life, sporting aspirations and journey which took him from his native Boland to the Racing Metro Club in Paris.


He had played Currie Cup, was in the Springboks Sevens group and was thinking about an offer to join the Lions when the offer came through from Racing Metro.

"I thought why not, I can still play Super rugby afterwards. I signed for three months and enjoyed it so much, I ended up staying," he said.

The French have never considered a test against the All Blacks as a normal game, it was an atmosphere which was difficult to explain.

"I am sure we will get excited. We have been working hard and if I get on the field it will be special to play the All Blacks. All the young guys want to show something."

After a poor Six Nations, France wanted to redeem themselves across the three-test series in Auckland, Christchurch and New Plymouth.

Messages from the coaching staff to the young squad have been about building the group's experience and style towards the next World Cup.

It was not all development though, France wanted to "give the All Blacks a good run for their money too".

"Our experienced guys are helping out the younger ones, we are training hard and trying a new style of play."