Jordie Barrett pinpoints the two biggest French threats for All Blacks
The All Blacks will close out their 2021 campaign against a highly-touted French side this weekend in a match that acts as a dress rehearsal for the two teams’ opening World Cup clash at the Stade de France in two years’ time.
Since the 2019 World Cup, France have improved drastically, as reflected by their back-to-back runner-up finishes in the last two Six Nations and last year’s Autumn Nations Cup.
An under-strength France outfit bereft of numerous headline players also pushed the Wallabies in their three-match test series in July, emphasising their growing depth and improved consistency in the international arena.
Among those impressed by the French rugby revolution is Barrett, who said he has been keeping tabs of their progress in recent years.
“Obviously I’m an avid footy follower and I was looking through their team naming this morning, and I couldn’t believe how little test caps a lot of those players have,” he told reporters from the French capital on Friday [NZT].
“It feels like they’ve been around forever, but I guess that just shows the quality that they are. They’ve been so good in the Six Nations in the past three or four years, they’ve got a young, quality core, and there’s a lot of hype around them at the moment.
“They play a big power game, they’ve got a massive pack, but, then again, they can run rings around you too, so I guess, with any French team, you don’t really know what to expect.”
All Blacks hooker Dane Coles, who has been named to start in the No 2 jersey this weekend, echoed Barrett’s sentiments as he reserved praise for their efforts against a full-strength Wallabies team four months ago.
“I think they’re probably a lot more consistent. I think 2018 was the last time they came over [to New Zealand]. Like I said, they’ve been playing with a lot of belief,” Coles said.
“They just look like a real consistent team, and they obviously have that French flair that we love to see, so I think they’re in a good position, mate.
“Even the team that they sent over to Aussie, they pushed Aussie to game three, and that wasn’t their strongest team, but they had a lot of guys that stepped up and created a lot of depth in their team, so definitely a team that’s playing some good footy at the moment and a team on the rise.”
As the All Blacks open the final chapter of their unprecedented test campaign, head coach Ian Foster has made a handful of changes in a bid to beat Les Bleus. #AllBlacks #FRAvNZL #AutumnNationsSeries https://t.co/uJQHsEMI2x
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 19, 2021
Central to France’s newfound success has been the rise of their young nucleus of players, a group of which that have been spearheaded by halves partners Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack.
The duo have cemented themselves as two of rugby’s brightest young prospects, illustrated by the appointment of Dupont, 25, as captain of Fabien Galthie’s squad and Ntamack, 22, being crowned 2019 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year.
It comes as little surprise, then, that Barrett named both players as individuals the All Blacks must shut down if they are to come away from Paris with a season-ending victory.
“Probably stating the obvious, but Antoine Dupont, who’s, I guess, the life of their team,” Barrett, who will start at fullback for the All Blacks this weekend, said.
“A lot of their play revolves around him. He’s a quality No 9, world-class No 9, and he dictates a lot of their play. I guess if we can stifle a lot of things he wants to get done in the game, we’ll go a long way to winning it.
“His combination with Romain Ntamack, obviously a quality young spine, class operators and it’s a clash I’m looking forward to.”
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