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Back To The Future
New Zealand v France: a history lesson
You know what they say – to know the future, you have to study the past – so what do previous results between New Zealand and France tell us about Sunday’s RWC final?

WHEN THE FINAL whistle of New Zealand’s semi-final clash with Australia blew last weekend, a palpable sense of relief spread around Eden Park.

Try as they might to talk it down, the All Blacks’ miserable World Cup record rankles among the players and supporters alike and the scene is now set for another classic showdown on Sunday.

Lying between the Kiwis and the trophy they desire more than any other, however, is a side well capable of beating them. It is perhaps why commentary in New Zealand has toned back down noticeably since a couple of very confident predictions were made in the hours after the win over Australia a short week ago.

The test record between New Zealand and their final opponents is one sided to say the least. Of 50 tests played, the men in black have claimed 37 victories and a draw – in sharp comparison to France’s 12 wins.

Compare games played at the Rugby World Cup though and the stats are much closer. Of five games played, France have won two and New Zealand three (including this year’s pool game between the teams).

Read our report on what happened when the two teams met earlier in the tournament here and then check out all you need to know from previous key fixtures.

June 2009: New Zealand 22-27 France

A massive defensive effort and a late breakaway try from Maxime Médard saw France claim their fourth win over the All Blacks in New Zealand two years ago.

The game was played in Dunedin rather than the infamous Eden Park, but without Richie McCaw and Dan Carter the hosts were just not the invincible side we have all become familiar with.

RWC 2007: New Zealand 18-20 France

Four years ago, having beaten France 61-10 in Wellington just months previously, New Zealand were rocked by a second-half comeback in the quarter-finals of the 2007 RWC in Cardiff.

France were down 13-3 at the break but tries from Thierry Dusautoir and Yannick Jauzion – plus an injury to fly-half Dan Carter – saw the tide turn blue in the second half.

RWC 2003: New Zealand 40-13 France

Tries from Chris Jack, Doug Howlett, Joe Rokocoko, Brad Thorn, Mils Muliaina, Martin Holah saw the All Blacks overcome France in the third-place play-off in Sydney – New Zealand having been well beaten by hosts Australia at the semi-final stage.

RWC 1999: France 43-31 New Zealand

Considered one of the best games in RWC history, a French comeback was responsible for yet another heartbreaking defeat for New Zealand.

Heavy favourites for the match and the title and 24-10 ahead at one stage, Les Bleus scored 33 points (answered by just seven) to complete a stunning fightback at Twickenham in October 1999.

Star of the show was fly-half Christophe Lamaison, who only started because of a late injury to Thomas Castaignede, and it was his kicking and attacking play throughout the game that was a crucial factor in the win. Another notable starter on the day was current French coach Marc Lievremont.

RWC 1987: New Zealand 29-9 France

After a memorable semi-final win over Australia, France simply did not perform come the ultimate showpiece back at the inaugural tournament in 1987. Their opponents dominated from start to finish to claim their first World Cup title; little did they know then that it would be at least 24 years before they would get their hands on Webb Ellis again.

What does all this mean?

That 1987 defeat could well be the result that Lievremont uses to try and spur his men on to greater things on Sunday. As French manager Jo Maso said this week France haven’t won a RWC to date because of their inability to put back-to-back performances together during the knock out stages.

They have little form coming into this game, one half against England apart, and reached the final despite having the worst pool record in history for a team that still qualified for the quarter-finals (with two losses).

France have managed to win two games at Eden Park in their history – the most recent in 1994 – and it will be all eyes on them. Should they play to their ability, we should have a cracking game of rugby to cap in intriguing World Cup; if they don’t, it might be a horror show.

History confirms that Graham Henry, his staff and players are right to be wary of Les Bleus!

READ – Three reasons why France can beat the All Blacks…

READ – Three reasons why New Zealand will win the Rugby World Cup