All Blacks look to level France series

Intensity has been a key word in the All Blacks camp this week ahead of their must-win Test match against France at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

The All Blacks coaches admitted their side had been outplayed by the physical French in a 27-22 loss in Dunedin last week and would need to step up in Wellington to avoid becoming the second New Zealand side to lose a home series to France.

The 1994 French team won that series 2-0, with the second match at Eden Park in Auckland decided by a length-of-the-field try that was described as coming ”from the end of the world”.

”We are trying to raise the bar and raise the intensity this week, as we should be,” assistant All Blacks coach Wayne Smith told reporters. ”The players are fine about it. Their lives are centred around winning, they’ll do anything.

”They are under the pump now with the public … these guys have lived their lives trying to be All Blacks.

”They know what it means when they get there.”

New Zealand made three changes to their starting side, bringing back Conrad Smith at centre and Jerome Kaino at blindside flanker.

Both missed the first game through minor injuries and will replace utility back Isaia Toeava and loose forward Liam Messam respectively.

Openside flanker Tanerau Latimer will also make his first start, allowing the loose forward combination to have more balance with the return of Kaino and shifting of Kieran Read from blindside flanker to number eight.

Adam Thomson played openside flanker last week but was ruled out with a broken hand, while Messam was number eight. Thomson, Read and Messam all played blindside for their Super 14 teams.

Three changes
France also made three changes with centre Maxime Mermoz replacing Mathieu Bastareaud, while Nicholas Mas — a late arrival after his Perpignan side won the French club final — will start at tighthead prop in place of Sylvain Marconnet.

Sebastien Chabal, who is normally a loose forward, will also start at lock, replacing Pascal Pape.

Should France win the match, it would be their third successive victory against the All Blacks after last Saturday’s triumph and their 2007 World Cup quarterfinal win.

France assistant coach Emile Ntamack, who was in the 1994 side that exposed the defensive frailties of the then 19-year-old Jonah Lomu playing in his first two Tests, said his side were focused on the series victory.

”We are not on tour just to win one game,” Ntamack told the New Zealand Press Association. ”We are on tour to write the new page of the French book.”

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina (captain); Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Joe Rokocoko; Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan; Kieran Read, Tanerau Latimer, Jerome Kaino; Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn; Neemia Tialata, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.

France: – Maxime Medard; Vincent Clerc, Maxime Mermoz, Damien Traille, Cedric Heymans; Francois Trinh-Duc, Julien Dupuy; Louis Picamoles, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Thierry Dusautoir (captain); Romain Millo-Chluski, Sebastien Chabal; Nicolas Mas, William Servat, Fabien Barcella. — Reuters

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