Morning sleepyheads, thanks for getting out of bed in time for this morning’s clash between the All Blacks and France.
We’ll be getting started in Auckland in a few minutes. Here are your teams:
New Zealand: Dagg; Jane, Smith, Nonu, Kahui; Carter, Weepu; Woodcock, Mealamu, Franks; Thorn, Whitelock; Kaino, McCaw, Thomson.
France: Traille; Clerc, Rougerie, Mermoz, Medard; Parra, Yachvili; Poux, Szarzewski, Ducalcon; Pape, Nallet; Dusautoir, Bonnaire, Picamoles.
Of course, it would be terribly remiss of me not to mention that the All Blacks’ most-capped player, openside flanker and rugby legend Richie McCaw, picks up his 100th test cap today. Well in, big man.
Ok, so this is how it’s gonna be. New Zealand cannot afford to lose on home soil, even though doing so would most likely mean an easier path to the final.
On the other hand, nobody in France is going to suffer too many sleepless nights if they’re beaten. But the French side isn’t as weak as some would have you believe — there are at least eight definite starters in Marc Lievremont’s XV for today’s game.
I’ll tell you what is weird though (as if you need to be told): Morgan Parra at out-half. I’m still struggling to work that one out.
Of course, there is a rather important subplot to this morning’s proceedings. Who can forget the “calamity in Cardiff” when France dumped a highly-fancied All Black side out of the 2007 World Cup in the quarter-finals?
The NZ public certainly haven’t forgotten, that’s for sure.
We’ve had the Haka — not the traditional “Ka Mate” Haka that we usually see from the All Blacks, but very animated and powerful nonetheless.
Alain Rolland blows his whistle and Morgan Parra gets the action underway.
Here are your predictions from Facebook. Nobody has gone for France, no?
Great start by France who have made all the running in these early moments. Morgan Parra tries an early dropper but it comes back off the upright and very nearly drops into Rougerie’s hands before Nonu pounces and the All Blacks clear.
France put the New Zealand scrum under tremendous pressure five metres out. The All Blacks clear, but it’s coming straight back at them…
Excellent work by the New Zealand front three in the scrum, forcing their opposite numbers to pop up and concede the penalty. Carter is able to kick the All Blacks into French territory for the first time this morning.
TRY! (Thomson, 9′) My word, that is simply magnificent by the All Blacks. Ma’a Nonu can take the lion’s share of the credit. The centre made up 30 or 40 yards from midfield, stepping inside Julian Bonnaire and exploiting a huge gap. He’s eventually dragged down a couple of yards short of the line but the ball is recycled quickly through Dagg and Thomson goes over in the corner.
The conversion is a real toughie for Carter and it just slips by the left upright. What a response by New Zealand. NZ 5-0 France
TRY! (Jane, 15′) When the All Blacks hit their stride, they really are something else. A set-piece move straight off the training ground as Jane springs off the back of the line-out and races free to the corner. The pop pass which set the winger free was well disguised, but France will be disgusted to concede such a soft try. Is it curtains for Les Bleus already?
Carter tacks on two more like the class act that he is. NZ 12-0 France
TRY! (Dagg, 19′) Speaking of Dan Carter being a class act, he’s just gone and created New Zealand’s third try with a beautiful dummy — I think it was the French number eight Picamoles who fell horribly for the old show and go. Carter could probably have gone on to score himself, but opts to go back inside to Dagg who is able to run it in under the posts. DC converts. NZ 19-0 France
“France aren’t this bad, looks like they are taking a dive,” says Paul O’Reilly in the comments below. I’m not so sure.
France are looking a little bit ponderous in possession and New Zealand, sensing this, are hardly giving them a second. A couple of good positional kicks help them in their territorial battle, but the All Blacks are looking rather unfussed about the whole thing.
French lock Lionel Nallet looks like his race is run. He’s had quite a bit of medical attention on the pitch and Julien Pierre is getting stripped on the touchline.
Again, France are having no joy at the breakdown as New Zealand’s industrious counter-rucking yields another turnover. It’s a pity because Medard had made up some hard yards and France finally looked to be gaining some momentum.
The first change of the morning is in fact made by the All Blacks — Cory Jane limps off to be replaced by Sonny Bill Williams.
There’s quite a lot of chatter on the Twitter about how frequently the All Blacks are (illegally) going in off their feet at the breakdown. I have to say, I didn’t think it was particularly bad today, but I’ll certainly be keeping a closer eye from this point on.
A little bit of unsavoury behaviour there as Jerome Kaino caught Yachvili with an elbow as the scrum-half tried to put Weepu under pressure. I’m not sure how intentional it was, but France will have a penalty.
PENALTY! (Yachvili, 38′) France clearly adhere to the schoolyard rule of “makers, takers” as Yachvili kicks them onto the scoreboard. NZ 19-3 France
HALF TIME: New Zealand 19-3 France
We’ve plenty to get our teeth into over the break. Are France trying or are they just poor? Do they have any chance in the second half?
If you’ve anything that you want to get off your chest, send it in and we’ll have a chat about it.
Back in a sec.
We’re back underway, and New Zealand are already camped on the French line…
TRY! (Dagg, 41′) Remember what I said before half time about a possible French comeback? Forget about it. They can’t even manage to stay in touch for 60 seconds of this second half. The initial break is Williams and Carter, the quick ball at the breakdown is Weepu, and the beautiful jinking finish is Dagg. Carter kicks the conversion; I type “Game over”. NZ 26-3 France
And before you say it, yes, I am well aware that the game was over long before now.
Had France not leaked an early try, I would have had time to tell you about their substitutions. Barcella, Harinordoquy and Heymans are all on; Ducalcon, Picamoles and Traille all make way.
PENALTY! (Carter, 46′) An All Blacks scrum yields an All Blacks penalty and Carter knocks it over. Rugby can be so simple sometimes, can’t it? NZ 29-3 France
If I was to try to pick out the one key difference between both teams here, it is the quality and quantity of support running. Every time the All Blacks break or go foraging at the breakdown, they do so in groups of four and five. That’s an alien concept to the French by the look of things.
TRY! (Mermoz, 53′) The All Blacks haven’t made too many mistakes today, but Dan Carter has just gift-wrapped a first international try for Maxime Mermoz. The out-half tried a long, looping pass across his back line which Mermoz read and stepped into. Bizarrely, the French centre celebrates as if he’s just scored the winning try in the World Cup final, making a half-hearted attempt at an Ashton-esque swallow dive.
Yachvili adds on the conversion which cuts the margin to 19. NZ 29-10 France
For those of you monitoring the 19-point spread, there is a chance that the All Blacks will take the foot off the pedal and make a couple of more mistakes in these final 20 minutes. But if I was a gambling man, I’d be putting my money on them running in another try or two and pulling away even more.
It’s actually the French replacements who look like they care the most about getting back into this match. Maybe that was Lievremont’s plan all along — keep the guys who actually want to win on the bench until the All Blacks are out of sight. Makes as much sense as playing Parra at out-half I suppose.
DROP GOAL! (Carter, 63′) I would happily sit here and just liveblog Dan Carter’s performance all day long. He nails a drop goal (because he can) and the All Blacks stretch their lead again. NZ 32-10 France
New Zealand are controlling the closing stages of this game, not giving France as much as a sniff. McCaw manages to drive Harinordoquy about 20 yards backwards for good measure.
France have had their fair share of possession. They’re just finding it very difficult to string together any sort of a meaningful attack. That could be about to change though. They’ve a line-out five metres out…
Servat bundles over with support but Alain Rolland is in the perfect position and deems the ball to have been held up. We go back for a five-metre scrum, but not before I acknowledge some sterling refereeing.
France have been awarded three straight penalties as loosehead prop Tony Woodcock refuses to bind properly. Can France get some more points on the board?
TRY! (Trinh-Duc, 75′) Wonderful opportunism by the French. As soon as Alain Rolland turns away from Woodcock and McCaw, they ask if they can take a quick tap penalty. They do, and while the All Blacks stand around, Trinh-Duc goes over. Yachvili adds the extras to make the scoreline a little bit more respectable. NZ 32-17 France
TRY! (Williams, 77′) What’s the point in France working so hard to score if they’re just going to hand it straight back? The All Blacks claim the restart unopposed, Slade does brilliantly to recycle, the ball is switched to the opposite flank and Williams crosses to score. No conversion for Carter, but that hardly matters at this stage. NZ 37-17 France
FULL TIME: New Zealand 37-17 France
French captain Thierry Dusautoir:
“We made too many mistakes.
“The three tries made a big difference in the first half.
“We came back into it at the end of the second half, but I think today was a good lesson for us.”
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw:
“We realised we had to take a step up this week. I was proud of the way the boys played.
When we got the opportunity, we put points on the board and when we got our chances, we took them. I’m very happy with that.
My French isn’t great, but I’m pretty sure this says “See you in the final?”
That’s Chabal’s real account. I can only presume that a) he’s joking or b) his account has been hacked.
That’s our lot. Barring some sort of inexplicable catastrophe in their final game against Canada, the All Blacks will top Pool A with France taking the runners-up berth and with it a probable quarter-final against England.
That was the plan all along, right?
Thanks for stopping by. Conor is here bright and early tomorrow morning for Fiji v Samoa before Adrian takes over for the big one — Ireland v Russia.
See you all then.