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Match Preview: France vs New Zealand

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Friday Sep 8, 2023

It’s here, it’s finally here. The World Cup 2023 has arrived as the eyes of the world turn to watch hosts France welcome New Zealand to the Stade de France for the tournament’s opening match.

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In what is due to be the most broadcast rugby tournament of all time, the French are donning what is arguably their best side, certainly in recent history. The All Blacks arrive off the back of a thumping defeat to South Africa in their warm-ups, but will not be deterred after going otherwise defeated heading into the competition.

What: Rugby World Cup – Pool A – Opening Match

Who: France vs New Zealand

When: 08/09/2023 – 20:15 local time

Where: Stade de France, Saint-Denis

Team News:

France: Les Blues make their way to the Stade de France without talismanic fly half, Romaine Ntamack, nor dominant second row, Paul Willemse who will both be spending the full World Cup campaigns watching from the sidelines.

They will also be without the services of inside centre, Jonathan Danty and prop, Cyril Baille, certainly for this match, with both players nursing less severe injuries than the aforementioned two.

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New Zealand: The All Blacks have made their trip to the other side of the world with players wrapped in bubble wrap and cotton wool, as their injury list almost mimics France’s.

They will be without their own inside centre, Jordie Barrett for the first match as he is replaced by Anton Lienert-Brown following a knee injury. Tyrel Lomax takes his time off following a nasty cut to his knee in the last match against the Springboks; he is replaced by Nepo Laulala.

Line ups:

New Zealand:

B Barrett; Jordan, R Ioane, Lienert-Brown, Telea; Mo’unga, Smith; De Groot, Taylor, Laulala; S Barrett, Whitelock; Papalii, Cane (capt), Savea.

Replacements: Taukei’aho, Tu’ungafasi, Newell, Vaa’i, Jacobson, Christie, Havili, Fainga’anuku.

France:

Ramos; Penaud, Fickou, Moefana, Villiere; Jalibert, Dupont (capt); Wardi, Marchand, Atonio, Woki, Flament, Cros, Ollivon, Alldritt.

Replacements: Mauvaka, Gros, Aldegheri, Taofifenua, Boudehent, Lucu, Vincent, Jaminet

Key match ups:

Antoine Dupont vs Aaron Smith

The two greatest scrum halves in the world battle it out on the biggest stage of all, as the younger Dupont looks to exceed his more experienced counterpart in a match that will no doubt send a statement around the world.

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Smith has been a stalwart for the All Blacks for over 10 years now, as he looks to marshal his forwards around the dangers of the French attack. His own side’s attack will need to benefit from his own fast ball if they are to be able to catch the home side on the back foot.

With Dupont able to make something out of nothing at a moments notice, it will be primarily up to Smith to ensure that his opposition number is not given the space, nor opportunity, to open up the All Black defence.

Stats:

Prediction:

France 22 – 17 New Zealand

It would be an easy choice to pin the three times world champion All Blacks down as winners for this clash, especially considering the injury woes that the French have recently had to suffer.

But the key point to be made is that France have a strength in depth matched by no other team in world rugby…even South Africa. One needs only remember the 2020 Autumn Nations final when a French ‘third strength’ side pushed a fully equipped England side to extra time in a narrow loss.

France will have their home crowd behind them as they look to extend their efforts above and beyond simply being a ‘bogey team’ to the All Blacks, in what we expect to be a comprehensive and commanding victory.

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