France missed tackle after tackle to help New Zealand on its way to a resounding 37-17 win in the Rugby World Cup, strengthening claims that coach Marc Lievremont did not pick a good enough team.
Lievremont had been pilloried all week for leaving out several first-choice players, to allegedly facilitate the chances of finishing second and slipping into the more favorable-looking side of the draw.
His players did little to shake off that so-called 'B team' tag with some horribly sloppy defending.
New Zealand's first four tries were the product of hopelessly missed tackles in the midfield, leaving France's defense overly exposed at a sold-out Eden Park.
"We made too many mistakes and I thought we let in far too many tries to the All Blacks," France captain Thierry Dusautoir said. "They made a difference in the first half. We came back at the end of the second half. I think we need to work hard enough and it's a good lesson today with this game."
Flanker Julien Bonnaire and fullback Damien Traille missed tackles on powerful center Ma'a Nonu leading up to the first try.
For the second, hooker Dimitri Szarzewski tried a feeble tackle on Cory Jane, who glided past him with ease and then shook of France winger Maxime Medard's weak attempt to pull him down around the shoulders to run in the second.
Medard had been in tears before the match — that was during New Zealand's national anthem — and the Toulouse winger had a torrid time coping against the darting runs of Jane.
The build-up to the second try started from a turnover, when Traille could not hold the ball after being stopped by a big hit from winger Richard Kahui.
The third try was even worse from France, as Dan Carter sold two French players a dummy with ridiculous ease, then shipped the pass over to give fullback Israel Dagg an easy try.
France missed 13 tackles in the first half and a further four handling errors gifted the All Blacks turnovers and easy momentum they did not have to fight for.
There was little improvement at the start of the second half, as Sonny Bill Williams and then Carter charged through a weak midfield, and Dagg cut inside before leaving Jean-Baptiste Poux in his wake as the burly prop desperately tried to grab his ankles.
William Servat, rated one of the best in the world, watched from the bench as Szarzewski struggled throughout the match. But Lievremont did not bring him on until the 53rd minute, even though his team was under increasing pressure.
When flanker Imanol Harinordoquy, Servat and regular flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc were finally together on the field, France played better. With a stronger-looking lineup, France shored things up and only lost the second half by 18-14.
Trinh-Duc's omission had been a major talking point and fueled allegations that Lievremont was fielding a weakened team purposely to diminish his team's chances of finishing top and landing in Australia and South Africa's side of the knockout draw.
Trinh-Duc was replaced at No. 10 by scrumhalf Morgan Parra, who had never started a match for France in that position. Parra fared reasonably well, hitting the post with an early dropped goal attempt, but he also missed several tackles.
Trinh-Duc's neat late try in the corner, his ninth in 32 tests, underlined how France may have fared better with him starting the game.
The French players formed a huddle at the end, showing at least that their spirit is intact ahead of next week's final Pool A match against Tonga.