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26 Nov 2009 11:37
Any feelings of fatigue after a draining season that began back in February are on hold, New Zealand captain Richie McCaw has warned ahead of Saturday’s Test match against France.
“We realise it’s going to be a good challenge,” said the openside flanker who will become the third most capped All Black when he wins his 80th cap at the Stade Velodrome here.
“We’ve had a light couple of days at the start of the week to make sure we’re fresh for Saturday and the guys are looking forward to it.
“Last week [against England] was pretty physical. The guys realise it could even be a step up from that: it’s going to be physical but we’re pretty used to that, it’s like all Test matches.”
New Zealand have so far gone unbeaten on their November tour, beating Wales (19-12), Italy (20-6) and last week at Twickenham, England (19-6).
But they lost the first tour Test against France in June before claiming parity with victory in the second, and famously went out of the 2007 World Cup at the quarterfinal stage at French hands in Cardiff.
France have also avoided defeat in their autumnal games, dispatching world and Tri-Nations champions South Africa (20-13) and Samoa (43-5) with a brand of hard-hitting rugby that sometimes they lack on a regular basis.
The added physical dimension France are offering, led magnificently by captain Thierry Dusautoir, has not been missed by McCaw, who was adamant that there was only one way to play.
“You’ve got to give it straight back and meet them with the same sort of physicality and play some rugby,” he said.
“So if you can get on top in that area and play and put them under pressure it takes away the instrument they have.”
McCaw stressed that his teammates had enjoyed some downtime since their victory over England.
“When you’ve played a few games in a row, it’s important to get fresh,” said the skipper, fresh from a visit to nearby Avignon.
“From here on we realise we’re on for a big Test match and everyone’s looking forward to it.
“Everyone realises the challenge we’ll be facing and it’s not as though we’re going home on Sunday.
We’ve got another week after that [when the All Blacks play the Barbarians at Twickenham]: that week might be a hard one.
“This week, the guys realise it’s a big match and we’re really excited about playing it.”
McCaw’s fellow flanker will be Jerome Kaino, recalled on the blindside at the expense of Adam Thompson because of the extra physical edge he offers.
“I had an inkling I’d get a chance against France,” said Kaino, standing 1,96m and weighing in at 105kg.
“[Assistant coach] Wayne Smith has been prepping the guys about the 2000 tour [when France beat the All Blacks then coached by Smith 42-33 in Marseille].
“He said it was an ambush [at the time Smith branded France as being like maverick Hollywood movie detective Dirty Harry] and that we should think the worst and expect that.
“We’re expecting the worst and we are looking forward to it.”—AFP
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