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'We can't copy Ireland': France hint at game plan to beat All Blacks

By Sam Smith
(Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

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Don’t expect France to replicate Ireland in the way in which they go about trying to beat the All Blacks in Paris this weekend.

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That’s the verdict from France head coach Fabien Galthie, who told reporters on Monday [NZT] that his side cannot simply apply the same game plan that Ireland used to topple New Zealand 29-20 in Dublin over the weekend.

Starving the All Blacks of possession and territory for much of the match, Ireland punched their way over the advantage line time and time again with plenty of attacking variation and quick recycled ball to run in three tries to two.

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In doing so, Andy Farrell’s men beat the Kiwis for the third time in five years, but Galthie is adamant France will implement their own style of play when they face Ian Foster’s side at the Stade de France this Sunday [NZT].

“Ireland have their own rugby, their own game. We can’t copy Ireland. We haven’t got the same players nor the same rugby as them,” Galthie said in the wake of his side’s 41-15 victory over Georgia in Bordeaux.

“They were able to play a fantastic match. There’s no superlative available to describe their performance.

“Despite that, the result was in the balance before a try [scored by Akira Ioane] was turned down by the referee decision for a forward pass [thrown by Rieko Ioane]. It tells us a lot about Saturday’s opponents.”

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Star playmakers Romain Ntamack and Matthieu Jalibert will be key to France’s chances of condemning the All Blacks to a second successive defeat, but how Galthie will utilise the pair remains to be seen.

Ntamack started outside of first-five Jalibert in the No 12 jersey in France’s 29-20 victory over Argentina eight days ago, and the duo retained their starting places for the clash against Georgia.

However, Ntamack – the 2019 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year – moved into No 10 during the Georgian match, with Jalibert shifting to fullback.

While he acknowledged that both players are capable of covering various positions well, Galthie wouldn’t be drawn into commenting where exactly Ntamack and Jalibert will start against the All Blacks.

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“We will take time to reflect. It was the choice we were looking at during the two first games. You will have seen we made changes in our strategy,” Galthie said.

“We have enough people to make the right decision ahead of next Saturday.

“We consider him [Ntamack] as a very good player if he’s flyhalf or 12. Like Matthieu Jalibert, who we consider as a very good player. If he plays outside-half or 15.”

Les Bleus may be without hooker Julien Marchand this weekend after he injured his ribs against Georgia, but young loose forward Cameron Woki starred at lock in his first test start since his impressive series against the Wallabies in July.

The 23-year-old, who stands 1.96m and 109kg, looms as a strong candidate to lineup against the All Blacks after catching Galthie’s eye alongside Romain Taofifenua in the second row.

“Cameron is a very good player at the lineout despite his young age. He leads the lineouts,” Galthie said of the 10-test international.

“He had a hybrid profile which makes me think about other second rows who started their career at back row.”

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