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Carter ready for French challenge

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Sportal.co.nz     27 Nov 2009     Getty Images

Carter was missing from the All Blacks when France toured New Zealand earlier in the year in the shared series between the two sides when France claimed a win in Dunedin.

But Carter's absence, and his brief flirtation with French club Perpignan before he suffered his Achilles tendon rupture, has seen him as the focus of attention in the lead up to what is being billed as the side's biggest match of the year.

Carter, who has been a key force for the side on the Northern Hemisphere tour, is well aware of the challenge awaiting the All Blacks in the southern France rugby stronghold.

During the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Marseille was the host town for the All Blacks and the side was feted by the locals but things are different this time around as they take on the French.

"Over the last couple of years, there's been a great rivalry with the French and it's always been an extremely tough challenge," he told reporters in Marseille.

AFP quoted him as saying: "This game being the last Test of the year for us, we really want to give it everything."

Carter said France was always going to be the toughest match of the tour and it was one the New Zealanders were targeting.

"I saw this game against France as being the most difficult and challenging. And when you come up against those challenges you want to really lift yourself and play the best," he said.

"Our season's been a bit up and down but we've finished strongly over the last four or five games, so we really want to finish on a high note and the only way to do that is by beating a very strong French side."

All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith has heightened the side's awareness of the peculiarities of playing in Marseille where support for the home side is intense, a feature he saw when coach of the side in 2000 when the All Blacks were mauled.

"They pride themselves on their physicality and they showed that against the Springboks," Carter said of the French.

"They'll be looking to get some forward domination and really put us under a lot of pressure we have to lift and play better than we have done in the last couple of weeks.

"I'm confident we can go out there and be physical and get good clean ball and play some open rugby, and hopefully we'll have the chance to play an attacking running style of play which I like to do."