New Zealand's 47-3 annihilation of France in Lyon last weekend has dominated every discussion point this week. The nation fears further slaughter at the Stade de France in tonight's second Test, just 10 months before France hosts the seventh World Cup.
France were overwhelmed physically by New Zealand in every phase. That is the price the French have paid for cleaning up their game. It has been cleaned up but it has also been neutered. Of as much concern is the loss of the intuitive skills, the off-the-cuff flair. French rugby has lost its unpredictability and glorious streaks of genius.
Much of this has occurred under the tutelage of the coach Bernard Laporte, who says of tonight's game "I am waiting for a revolt". He might have a long wait.
Laporte has made changes, introducing Wasps' hooker Raphael Ibanez as captain, Olivier Milloud at loose head, Remy Martin at flank, Lionel Naillet at lock, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde at scrum-half, Cedric Heymans on the wing and Pepito Elhorga at full-back.
Unfortunately for France, Graham Henry, the New Zeland coach, has chosen what he regards as his No 1 team. The key factor is the selection of Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter for the third successive week. Around those two, the top two players in world rugby, the rest is built.
France: P Elhorga (Agen); A Rougerie (Clermont-Auvergne), F Fritz, Y Jauzion, C Heymans (all Stade Toulouse); D Traille (Biarritz), J-B Elissalde (Stade Toulouse); O Milloud (Bourgoin), R Ibanez (London Wasps, capt), P de Villiers (Stade Français), L Naillet, P Pape (both Castres), R Martin (Stade Français), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin), E Vermeulen (Clermont-Auvergne). Replacements: D Szarzewski, S Marconnet (both Stade Français), L Jacquet (Clermont-Auvergne), S Betsen, D Yachvili (both Biarritz), C Dominici (Stade Français), D Marty (Perpignan).
New Zealand: L MacDonald (Canterbury); J Rokocoko (Auckland), M Muliaina (Waikato), M Nonu (Wellington), S Sivivatu (Waikato); D Carter (Canterbury), B Kelleher (Waikato); A Woodcock (North Harbour), K Mealamu (Auckland), C Hayman (Otago), C Jack (Canterbury), A Williams (Auckland), J Collins (Wellington), R McCaw (Canterbury, capt), R So'oialo (Wellington). Replacements: A Hore (Taranaki), N Tialata (Wellington), J Eaton (Taranaki), C Masoe (Wellington), A Ellis (Canterbury), N Evans (Otago), L McAlister (North Harbour).
Referee: C White (England).Reuse content