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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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Rampant All Blacks rip pathetic France apart to secure RWC semi-final

Steve Hansen’s men were at their very best in the Millennium Stadium.

New Zealand 62

France 13

Murray Kinsella reports from the Millennium Stadium

YOU DON’T FULLY appreciate just how skillful New Zealand are until you see them in the flesh. The ball doesn’t thud into their palms, it nestles between their fingertips, at once ready to be shifted on to wherever the space might be.

Julian Savea hands off Scott Spedding  to score a try Savea was utterly brilliant for the Kiwis. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There is a uniform understanding of when to release the ball, how to force defenders’ shoulders to turn in, all the time accentuating the existing space.

Their footwork doesn’t churn up the turf beneath, instead the Kiwis tiptoe and glide. At frightening speed. They don’t leap for the high ball, they seem to soar. Offloads always hang for the crucial extra split second.

The ruck is a craft for Steve Hansen’s men in which every squad member is well versed, the aggression they bring in this department making everything else they do all the easier. Their restart strategy is the most intelligent in the world.

Then add in the athletic prowess we saw this evening and it’s been underlined once again just why the Kiwis have been World Cup favourites for so long. Julian Savea’s hattrick was all about pace and explosiveness, while Ma’a Nonu won collisions all night.

You don’t need a game plan when the players have skills like these. Nine tries and each of them a beauty.

Facilitating it all was a French side that delivered a pathetic performance, a truly sad outfit who ensured Philippe Saint-André’s reign of horror ended in the fashion it deserved.

New Zealand’s Ma'a Nonu is tackled by France’s Morgan Parra Nonu was brilliant for the Kiwis. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Louis Picamoles, Thierry Dusautoir and Guilhem Guirado alone looked like they belonged in this arena, the majority of the rest looked like they were mentally already back at home. A disgrace to the history of French rugby, this was capitulation.

What an arena the Millennium Stadium proved to be for the slaughtering.

One could forgiven for thinking Ireland were playing in this match, such was the gusto with which ‘The Fields of Athenry’ and ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’ were belted out in the second half. The promise of more to come tomorrow.

The Irish and Kiwi support enjoyed every single thrust and dart from New Zealand. Picking out the best try among nine of them is difficult, but the effort finished by Jerome Kaino was perhaps the ultimate showcase of the basics done in a supreme manner.

Savea scored a barrelling hattrick, replacement scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow bagged two as the Kiwis’ offloading game tore the switched-off French asunder and there were many, many more moments of utter class from Hansen’s side.

Picking out individuals in such a strong collective performance is unfair, but we must laud fullback Ben Smith. The Highlander is one of the finest rugby players on the planet, slight compared to some of his giants of teammates but a man who almost always wins the contest or beats a defender. His skillset is remarkable.

Some Irish fans in the crowd There was a big Irish support in the Millennium Stadium. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Savea was the man of the match for his trio of scores, while the likes of Kieran Read, Dan Carter and Nehe Milner-Skudder – before he was replaced after the half-time break – all showed their world-class ability.

Nonu was back to his best in midfield, Brodie Retallick looked like an out-half at times, but there were sublime displays all round. Stopping this Kiwi outfit will be an immense challenge.

South Africa have that task next Saturday in Twickenham.

New Zealand scorers:

Tries: Retallick, Savea (3), Milner-Skudder, Kaino, Read, Kerr-Barlow (2)

Conversions: Carter (7)

Penalties: Carter (1)

France scorers:

Tries: Picamoles

Conversions: Parra (1)

Penalties: Spedding (1), Parra (1)

NEW ZEALAND: Ben Smith; Nehe Milner-Skudder,  Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Dan Carter, Aaron Smith; Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles, Owen Franks; Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock; Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt.), Kieran Read.

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Joe Moody, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams.

FRANCE: Scott Spedding; Noa Nakaitaci, Alexandre Dumoulin, Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin; Frederic Michalak, Morgan Parra; Eddy Ben Arous, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani; Pascal Papé, Yoann Maestri; Thierry Dusautoir (capt.), Bernard Le Roux, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Damien Chouly, Yannick Nyanga, Rory Kockott, Remi Tales, Mathieu Bastareaud.

Referee: Nigel Owens.

Attendance: 71,619.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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