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Jedi's column - on to France

allblacks.com     10 Nov 2006    

New Zealand versus France, the immovable object versus the irresistible force, two versions of the same game, not mutually exclusive, but in some comprehendible way, diametrically opposed.

This is the feeling generated within a lover of rugby when these two sides meet.

Unlike the deep stirring of blood that consumes a fan of the All Blacks when meeting with the Springboks or even the overwhelming sense of annoyance, when the noisy vagrants from the West Island come calling; no dear reader, France unlock an ‘emotion’ within the All Black supporter.

Excitement.

This often avoided change of inner balance threatens to leap from the collective breast when the Tricolour stand at the ready, for although New Zealand offer one team, in one colour, the French; being French, do not.

You see, for the New Zealand supporter the game is simple, gain possession, use the ball, play percentage rugby, eliminate the risks, dominate, support and generate enough pressure to turn all of Wales into one large diamond pit.

Yes, we in New Zealand know how to play the game, we have an intrinsic understanding, there is a system, we are logical in our approach and methodical in the way we dispatch every opposition, except for the French.

The French, with their drop goals and flick passes and endless scissor movements, stretching the length of the park. The French with their fiendish pack of brutes playing the man and not the ball. The French with their mounting of suicidal attacks from their own goal line.

The French with their mythical – Le Flair. Baa humbug!

Which French team will play the All Blacks’ is impossible to predict, will it be the blood red French, who on Armistice Day draw from the earth, the life force spilled by so many, or the white hot French, who to a man burned so furiously with desire in 1986, least we as New Zealanders forget the terrible toll of Nantes, or even that October day at Twickenham.

Perhaps it will be French Bleu by the end of the game?

The result is almost unbearable to consider, when considering the French. They care not for well constructed and deliberate play, orchestrated movements conducted by ‘our’ left foot wonder. They shrug their shoulders; in that despairingly ‘but it is not French’ kind of way, at the sequences developed by Messieurs Henry, Hansen and Smith that create space out wide or weakness around the ruck.

Why! Because they are French! They do not care what the All Blacks do, they care only about what France will do, but do the French even know what they will do.

No! Why? Because they are French!

This team is impossible. It is ludicrous, absolutely lacking in logic, how on earth can you prepare to play a team that seemingly on the day is capable of doing anything.

And there in lies the foundation of our excitement. The power and precision of the All Blacks versus the freedom and intensity of the Tricolour. The awe of the machine versus the majesty of the running mustang, the excitement even now builds within all lovers of the game.

The All Blacks have announced ten changes and the French are struggling to find a suitable first-five eighth replacement, Laporte’s selection of Damien Traille; a centre-three quarter by stature, shows that even France fear the likes of So'oialo, Collins and McCaw, whom are collectively known now as the ‘marauders’. With no Michalak or Castaignède the rooster is without a head, although no true All Black supporter truly believes that, without doubt one of them shall step forward and plummet themselves into national hero status.

The usual diversions and dispersions have been cast with French forward coach Jacques Brunel claiming referee leniency is the secret to the All Blacks scrum dominance, it’s enough to make Anton smile.

This is the first ‘significant challenge’ of two, we should all be smiling, for rugby lovers, surely it gets no better than this!