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All Black quartet set to face France

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Sportal.co.nz     20 Sep 2011     Getty Images

The four suffered assorted injuries in the lead-up to the match against Japan and forced the All Black coaches to make late changes, but all took part in training at Linfield Park in Christchurch on Monday morning.

"It looks like they're all on track to be available this Saturday," All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith said afterwards.

"Richie had quite a big session and finished it doing some of the forward unit work. Daniel got through a bit of work today and (back) had freed up a bit better but he still is not 100 per cent.

"The back is still stiff and a bit uncomfortable but I think the positive thing today was that he goal-kicked after training and that's a really good sign. Mils got through a lot more and is pretty close to right and Israel looked pretty free."

Smith said that No. 8 Kieran Read, whose injured foot had prevented him from playing in the tournament so far, was also recovering well. "He ran for the first time this week and is hopefully on track for the Canada game (October 2)."

While the cynics may suggest that France would not be bothered if they lost on Saturday and finished second in the pool to get an easier passage through the knock-out phase, Smith did not believe that would be the case.

"I'm certain they will want to knock us over. Psychologically it is important for the team and we want to do the same."

Smith felt France had not shown its true hand in the unconvincing wins over Japan and Canada, but he believed the unpredictable French would not stray from the pattern of play they had displayed all year.

"We've studied them through the Six Nations and in pre-World Cup games so we have a pretty good feel for what their patterns are and from my experience patterns don't change a lot with individuals," he said.

"We've got a really big game this week and we've got to get really get some edge. We've been watching all the other teams play and if you look at a couple of games – Ireland is a good example – the physicality of their game was well up from what we've experienced so we've got to get that really quickly."

Asked if the public could expect to see the top All Blacks XV against France, Smith indicated that the team originally named for the Japan game was close to that.

"We were going to see it last week. We picked a team we thought would probably play last weekend and next week, but that's the reality of tournament play. You have to react to the injuries and have players come in and step up to that level."

"You talk about picking the best team but I don't know if that ever exists because you always get niggles and have guys coming and going."

Smith added that some players who had been under pressure had stepped up to the plate.

"There's a couple of positions where we've got good options, but that's great because you want selection to be tough and you don't want injuries to make the decision for you."