Henry expects French passion

Getty Images     23 Sep 2011     Getty Images

The victim at the last tournament when New Zealand failed for the first time at the quarter-final stage of the last Rugby World Cup in 2007, Henry was commenting on Ireland's win over Australia.

He said the Irish played some outstanding rugby and he didn't think they had been given credit for their effort.

But he was conscious that New Zealand needed to be mindful of similar considerations when preparing for their game with France on Saturday.

"History shows the challenge that is ahead," Henry said. "It is a game of great interest to New Zealand and French people. They will be very physical and they have a mature pack."

Henry didn't buy into the argument that it was a French B team.

"There are 642 caps in their starting XV. I don't take any notice of some of the comments that have been made," he said.

The rivalry between the two countries, especially at World Cups, would provide an edge to the game on Saturday.

New Zealand conquered France to win the inaugural World Cup in 1987 while France had scuppered All Blacks hopes at the tournaments in 1999 and 2007.

World Cup games were different to normal Test matches, Henry added. At World Cups teams played with more emotion, and more physicality and teams played on the huge emotion involved to sometimes achieve extraordinary results.

The side would look at the 2007 exit at some stage in this tournament and the lessons it could provide.

"It caused a lot of pain for some people who don't want to go through it again," Henry said.

As part of the emotion, the All Blacks would be able to call on the inspiration they received as a result of their visit to earthquake-shattered Christchurch earlier in the week.

The players were affected by what they saw and it was hard to imagine what people had been through.

The 'huge amount of backbone' witnessed by players of those in Christchurch had been inspirational, Henry said.

"And Canterbury has been a backbone of sport in this country for a long time," he added.

Henry also believes the France game will be a measure of whether Sonny Bill Williams could make the step up to another level.

The jury was still out on the 26-year-old according to Henry, and the selectors would be looking to see if he could make another step against quality opposition, from the bench.