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'I'll be falling asleep': Late night kick-off has All Blacks on edge

By Alex McLeod
(Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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It’s not every day the All Blacks start a test match near their bedtime, and Dane Coles hopes it stays that way.

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The All Blacks will close their 2021 international season against France at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday [NZT], with the test scheduled for a 9pm kick-off.

Rarely to the All Blacks begin test matches any later than 8pm, with kick-off times for first-class matches in New Zealand varying between 2:05pm and 7:05pm.

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However, Ian Foster’s men could be playing as late as 11pm local time, depending on how many stoppages there are in this weekend’s clash against Les Bleus.

Given the 12-hour difference between the French and New Zealand time zones, the match will be played at a favourable time for Kiwi fans watching on from home, but Coles isn’t a fan of the late night kick-off.

In fact, the 34-year-old hooker told reporters on Friday [NZT] that he hopes New Zealand Rugby don’t follow the lead of the French Rugby Federation in staging matches so late at night.

“I’ll be falling asleep, that’s my bedtime,” the 78-test veteran, who has been named to start in the No 2 jersey in the French capital, said.

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Coles said that, due to the unfamiliar circumstances, the All Blacks have discussed how exactly they are going to approach the late kick-off, which he indicated will involve a longer-than-usual sleep-in and an increased intake of coffee.

“We’ve actually talked about that. It’s just probably getting a bit more of a sleep in, that Saturday morning, and probably delaying everything we do, your routine, by an hour or an hour-and-a-half.

“So something we’ve talked about after training and just putting a plan around it. Maybe a few more coffees before kick-off [will] get the boys up. But yeah, something different.

“Pretty keen for it to only be once a year, to be fair, hopefully New Zealand don’t get onto that bandwagon. We’ve been loving the early kick-offs but something different will be good, stay up late, a few coffees and then we’ll be into it.

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Adding to the unusual setting the All Blacks are set to come up against is the fact that they will have to wear their white away jerseys for the first time since their 38-18 win over France in Paris four years ago.

In spite of that, All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock said on Saturday [NZT] that are excited by the novelty of wearing an alternative strip as they aim to lock away the coveted Dave Gallaher Trophy away for the seventh time since 2009.

To commemorate the occasion, whereby both teams will compete for the silverware dedicated to the former All Blacks captain who died during the First World War, the All Blacks’ jersey will also feature a commemorative poppy.

“It is one of those things we do talk around every time we play for it because, even though he lived so long ago, a lot of the standards that the All Blacks live by now he set up as the leader he was,” Whitelock said.

“We understand the history of it, and it is something we don’t take lightly.”

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