RUGBY WORLD CUP 2015
Quarter Final 2
Sunday, 18 October 06:00
If there was one team New Zealand wanted to avoid in the knockout stages it was France. Along with Australia, France are the only country to have beaten New Zealand at a World Cup in the last four editions of the tournament, a feat they’ve achieved twice. In 1999 they came from behind in the semis to shock the All Blacks in arguably the greatest World Cup match of all time, while at this stage eight years ago they managed another stirring second-half comeback to overhaul a 3-13 deficit, to win 20-18. Ironically, despite the 2007 tournament being hosted in France the game took place on a Saturday night in Cardiff. In 2011, the French were so close to upsetting the party again, losing out by just a single point to the Kiwis in the final having been thrashed by them earlier on in the pool stages 37-17. Outside of World Cups, the All Blacks have dominated this head-to-head in recent years, claiming victory in six of the last seven including all four since being crowned World Champions.
After surviving a tough Argentinian test in their opener, Steve Hansen’s men cruised through the other three matches to maintain their 100% pool record at World Cups. In the knockout stage they’ve won five of their last seven, leading at half-time in six of them with four victories by 14 points or more. Excluding France, they’ve not met a Six Nations opponent in the latter phases this century, but they have registered convincing victories over Italy, Scotland and Wales in the pool stages. From 2008 the All Blacks have won 21/22 against Six Nations teams at northern hemisphere venues, their only defeat was at Twickenham in 2012. Before that loss, 14/15 wins were by a double-figure margin whereas five out of six since have been by fewer than 10 points.
France were extremely poor against Ireland in their pool decider and the performance suggested that they will be no match for the current world no.1 ranked side. Four years ago they lost two group matches but still went on to reach the final, although nothing in the last four years under Phillipe Saint-Andre suggests they can turn up and win here. Les Bleus have won just two of 10 against the southern hemisphere Big Three with half of those defeats by 10 or more points. In the Six Nations they’ve recorded three fourths and a wooden spoon, compared to 2011 when they had two thirds, a second and a Grand Slam in recent memory.
It would be fantastic to see the French put in another mercurial performance against the All Blacks at a World Cup but we just can’t envisage it this year. Considering their inconsistency under Saint-Andre it’s tough to know how much they will lose by so we are happy to avoid the handicap. NZ have led at HT in 14 of their last 15 wins over France so the HT/FT looks a good option again here.
- New Zealand have won 21/22 against Six nations opponents since 2008
- France have won two of their last five World Cup matches against New Zealand but have been behind at half-time in every match
- France have lost eight out of 10 against the Southern hemisphere giants under Saint-Andre
- In the last 24 World Cup knockout matches the half-time leader has gone on to prevail on 20 occasions