RUGBY expert Russ Petty (@RPetty80) tackles the All Blacks’ quarter-final match with France on Saturday night.
New Zealand v France | Saturday 20.00 | ITV 1
Will France echo the events of 2007 and beat New Zealand in a quarter-final? Will there be a player rebellion like 2011 that sees Les Bleus reach the final? The history repeating itself narrative has been popular this week – but both examples are unlikely this time around.
The 2007 side had won the Six Nations in 2004 (with a Grand Slam), 2005 and 2007 and finished second in 2006. They’d won 64% of their matches against other Tier 1 teams in those four years and averaged 3.1 tries-per-match. The current team haven’t finished higher than fourth in the Six Nations, have a poor 38% win rate against Tier 1 opposition and average 1.8 tries-per-match.
The 2011 squad may have been called “spoiled brats” by then coach Marc Lievremont but it was an experienced group containing strong personalities. There might not be the same characters in this vintage and even if some were feeling mutinous they know forwards coach Yannick Bru is staying on for the next regime.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen and No 8 Kieran Read have both mentioned that they expect to see ‘French flair’ this week. That can’t be based on anything they’ve seen in the last four years with Saint-Andre in charge. It is probably more the case that they hope to tempt France into chucking the ball about so they can pounce on the inevitable turnovers.
Les Bleus would be wiser to instead look at what has bothered the All Blacks and Hansen in recent years – slow paced matches (first Test against England in June 2014, pool game against Namibia), having to deal with ‘bloody boring’ lineout drives (Argentina game in July) and plenty of scrums.
For all the ‘nemesis ‘ talk this week, France have lost the previous eight against this opponent and since 2013 have won only three of 22 matches against top-eight ranked teams – with those victories all occurring at home.
They’ve only scored the one try before the break against New Zealand in those last eight matches and in just four of the previous 20 games against all Tier 1 sides. The French have also gone 280 minutes without a try at this venue.
New Zealand have prevented an opponent from scoring a first-half try in seven of their last 10 matches and in 12 of 16 World Cup knockout matches. It is 8/11 (Sportingbet) for the first France try to occur in the second-half or not at all.
With the exception of the benched Damien Chouly, France have named the same pack that made an average of 16 tackles each against Ireland less than a week ago. The high error count in the pool stage might be a concern for New Zealand, but there should be a few opportunities to exploit tiring French players later on. We’ll take the All Blacks -6 on the second-hlaf handicap at 10/11 with William Hill.
New Zealand v France – Time of first France try = ‘second half or no try’ (8/11 Sportingbet)
New Zealand v France – New Zealand -6 second-half handicap (10/11 William Hill)
New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are all well fancied to win this weekend. Fancy the 6/1 treble?
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