I'm pretty pleased with the All Blacks side to face France in the first test. It balances the need for a good win with the need to develop cover for the RWC. Thrashing the French is important both because this team needs momentum and because the French are highlighly likely to be in the finals.
I've just finished reading Spiro Zavos's book Watching the Rugby World Cup, which I'd recommend for its detailed preview of the Cup including the chapter on who'll win and why. Zavos is firstly a good writer then an excellent analyst of rugby. I didn't know he'd won the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship early in his career.
Apparently, in the history of French rugby, winning at home is far more important than winning at home; winning in defence of your home town and within earshot of the chiming of your local church. This means, if NZ face France in the finals, we need to have beaten them resoundingly and often in the lead-up to withstand their inevitable fanatacism at home.
Zavos suggests the winning team will have some or all of the following attributes; a brilliant five eighth, a dominant pack, an inspirational leader and momentum through the tournament. The All Blacks have these elements, my only fear is that they've fallen too often at the penultimate test and will again, likely, face the Wallabies in the semis. The Wallabies are one of only a very few sides to be able to play significantly better during the tournament than at any point previously. Therefore, I hope the All Blacks crack 40 points against the French and the Wallabies continue to struggle with the Welsh... either way, I'll be listening to the alternative rugby commentary of Jedi and his mates come Saturday.
2 days ago