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French hope they are due a Paris ambush

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James Mortimer     05 Nov 2013     Getty Images

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen rightly points out that France had their chances during the series, especially in the first and third Tests, even if the second in Christchurch the World Champions produced one of their finer performances in 2013 to win 30-0.

Statistics are an erotic allure to the fact that the All Blacks should easily account for France, but the moment such a scent is registered, a side that has all the technical instructions to be a world beater turns into such a confused beast.

Les Bleus can dominate in the scrum, execute master classes in loose play, run magical lines to weave spells that no team can overcome, and put together periods where no side can match.

While the All Blacks are expected to be too strong, no opponent in the world has the ability to punish them so coldly.

The visitors have dominated the ledger, with New Zealand winning 41 of 54 Tests against France, bringing up a winning percentage almost identical to the All Blacks overall record throughout history.

But each of the Tri-colours 12 victories have been historic, two of which have been during Rugby World Cups, and a handful more being just before the major rugby tournament of the game, notably being wins in 1986 and a three-match run between 1994 and 1995.

While it is currently seven straight wins for the All Blacks against a side that convincingly wields the best winning percentage against New Zealand outside of the SANZAR traditional three, such a fact only suggests that a confident side that can afford to send an elite party of nine players ahead to Paris could be assaulted by a French team that has match hardening thanks to a dozen rounds in the Top 14.

This is however, the ‘first international match’ of their season for France.

An opener against an All Blacks side in full swing won’t be easy, although Hansen did remind us that a round the world trip and the 12th Test of the year will not mean it is a side that isn’t without their own preparation challenges.

French coach Philippe Saint-Andre has pulled players into camp after the weekend’s Top 14, and knows that his troops need to overturn a poor run, especially in front of home support.

The All Blacks have won 16 of 23 in France, with the 42-33 win to Les Bleus in Marseille in 2000 the last time New Zealand lost in the Gallic country, while the Tri colours last success in their capital against this weekend’s visitors was way back in 1973.

Saint-Andre is wary of that history, as well as his own, having guided France to just one home win against Italy in their last three outings.

"We need to show that sometimes statistics are worthless," he said.