Can the French cause an upset and defeat the mighty All Blacks?
Where: Stade de France
When: 20.00 (GMT)
Watch live: Click here to watch on NowTV from Sky! to watch with a NOW TV Sky Sports Day Pass! Save 10% this weekend with the code AFWK2021G10
The most experienced team in All Blacks’ history will face France this weekend after New Zealand coach Steve Hansen recalled his big guns for the Paris clash.
Hansen’s run-on team announced Thursday has 853 caps, with a further 112 available on the bench for a combined record of 965, in a sign the world champions are not taking the mercurial French lightly.
“France are one of our great rugby foes and there is a rich history of matches between our two countries, so we are certainly looking forward to this weekend,” Hansen said.
With Hansen’s team bidding to become the first All Blacks’ side ever to finish the year with a 100 percent win record, the coach ditched the experimental line-up that defeated Japan 54-6 in Tokyo last week.
Eight first-choice All Blacks — including stalwarts such as Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Ma’a Nonu — sat out the Japan game and travelled straight to France for the European leg of the tour, which also includes Tests against England and Ireland.
Hansen said he was sticking with the core group of players who had delivered 11 wins from 11 Tests so far this year.
“In the end it was a pretty easy team to pick,” he said. “It’s pretty consistent with what we’ve been running with most of the year.”
The main talking point was the absence of winger Julian Savea due to a flu virus, with Cory Jane returning from a hamstring injury to take his place alongside fellow wing Charles Piutau.
Hansen said Piutau, the rookie among the starting 15 with just eight caps, had been in “electric” form and deserved his spot.
Skipper Richie McCaw returns to his favoured number seven position after being played at eight in Tokyo, while star fly-half Dan Carter will move to 99 Tests at the Stade de France.
Head-to-head record between France and New Zealand
France wins: 12
New Zealand wins: 41
Highest Scores: France 43-31, 1999; New Zealand 61-10, 2007
Biggest Wins: France 22-8, 1994; New Zealand 61-10, 2007
Last five results
2013 New Plymouth: NZL 24-9
2013 Addington: NZL 30-0
2013 Auckland: NZL 23-13
2011 Auckland (WC final): NZL 8-7
2011 Auckland (WC): NZL 37-17
Note: WC = World Cup
New Zealand (15-1)
Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Charles Piatau; Dan Carter, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Ryan Crotty.
Brice Dulin; Yoann Huget, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard; Remi Tales, Morgan Parra; Wenceslas Lauret, Damien Chouly, Thierry Dusautoir (capt); Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape; Nicolas Mas, Benjamain Kayser, Yannick Forestier
Vincent Debaty, Dimitri Szarzewski, Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Antonie Claassen, Jean-Marc Doussain, Camille Lopez, Gael Fickou