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Second Test Preview: All Blacks v France

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Andy Burt     14 Jun 2018     Getty Images


Match details:
All Blacks v France, Saturday 16 June, 7.35pm, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Matches played: 59
All Blacks won: 46
France won: 12
Draw: 1
Last Match: All Blacks 52, France 11 (June 9, 2018)
Largest All Blacks winning margin: 61-10 (2007)

UNCHANGED 23
For the first time since 2015, the All Blacks have named the same 23 for consecutive Tests. Coach Steve Hansen said it was important to reward players who have played strongly. “At this time of year you are trying to build your skill sets and combinations and it is really difficult if you keep chopping and changing the team early in the season. So we thought we would stay with a bit of consistency.” Meanwhile France have made five changes to their starting line-up, including the injection of three players who were involved in the Top 14 final on June 2 and were subsequently unavailable for the first Test. 



FANTASTIC FINISHERS
France will have spent a lot of time during the week trying to work out how to handle the All Blacks run-ons. Damian McKenzie was lethal off the bench in the final 20 minutes. The Chiefs dynamo racked up an incredible 113 running metres including a brilliant try and a classy try-assist. Ardie Savea was his energetic self and rewarded with a try while debutant Karl Tu’inukuafe forced a penalty in his first scrum on the park. France were good for 50 minutes in the first Test but crumbled under the tempo and pressure brought by the All Blacks impact players.

MIDFIELD MATCH-UP

French captain Mathieu Bastareaud will be desperate to lead from the front after his side slipped to a 52-11 defeat in the first Test. The 120kg powerhouse is one of the most feared ball runners in the game and will be looking to bust some holes in the All Blacks midfield. Anton Lienert-Brown revels in the physical battle and will enjoy any opportunity to fell the French skipper. On attack, Lienert-Brown’s superior pace may catch Bastareaud off guard – especially as the match wears on.

UNDER 20 INSPIRATION
France don’t have to look far for inspiration with their Under 20 counterparts completely dominant in dumping New Zealand Under 20 out of the World Rugby Under 20 Championships this week. France were too powerful for New Zealand across the park in winning the semifinal 16-7 and qualifying for their first ever final. A France win in Wellington would cap off a landmark week for French rugby and perfectly set up a Gallaher Cup and Steinlager Series decider in Dunedin next week. 



FAST FACT
The All Blacks have now won their last 12 Tests in a row against France, only Wales (W15 from 1908-1927) have won more consecutive matches against Les Bleus.

TEAMS
All Blacks:
Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Anton-Lienert Brown, Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock (c), Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.
Reserves: Nathan Harris, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, Ngani Laumape.

France: Benjamin Fall, Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Gael Fickou, Anthony Belleau, Morgan Parra, Kevin Gourdon, Kelian Galletier, Mathieu Babillot, Yoann Maestri, Bernard Le Roux, Uini Atonio, Camile Chat, Dany Priso
Reserves: Pierre Bourgarit, Cyrill Baille, Gomes Sa, Gabrillagues, Lapandry, Baptiste Serin, Jules Plisson, Maxime Medard