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'We expected better': Ex-All Black disappoints in first start in France

By Ben Smith
Paris's New-zealander Scrum-half Brad Weber (C) clears the ball from a scrum during the French Top 14 rugby union match between Section Paloise and Stade Français at the Hameau stadium in Pau southwestern France, on November 25, 2023. (Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP via Getty Images)

Former All Blacks halfback Brad Weber has disappointed in his starting debut for Stade Francais in a lopsided 30-6 loss to Pau in the Top 14.

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After two showings off the bench to start his stint in France with the Paris club, the former Chiefs co-captain started in the round eight clash.

Stade fell behind early as Pau put in two tries through blindside Sacha Zegueur and lock Mickael Capelli.

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Former Exeter flyhalf Joe Simmonds kicked two conversions and two penalties to give Pau a 20-6 lead at half-time.

Stade Francais remained scoreless in the second half as Simmonds added another penalty and former All Black No 8 Luke Whitelock added another Pau try.

Weber and former England international Joe Marchant, who had a stint with the Blues in Super Rugby in 2019, were rated “flops” by French writer Jerome Prevot of RugbyRama.

On the All Blacks No 9 he was at a lost for words for Weber’s showing that was “without genius”.

“What to say? Otherwise, we expected better from this New Zealand scrum-half, 18 times selected for the All Blacks,” he wrote.

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“Few differences on personal initiatives, few decisive gestures and this incomprehensible decision on a penalty which he played quickly to immediately hit directly into touch.

On Marchant he wrote that he was “annihilated” from “start to finish” by the Pau defence.

The England midfielder had seven carries for seven metres and one turnover conceded.

“It wasn’t the kind of match that could have made him shine naturally. So, we expected from the center of the XV de la Rose, something more incisive, something that would have some allure.

“We felt him annihilated by the Pau defense almost from start to finish.”

Weber didn’t fare much better taking six runs for 15 metres as he tried to get his running game going.

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Stade Francais failed to register a line break as the Pau defence proved unbreakable.

The clash was a crunch game between two of the top four sides in the Top 14 with Pau now leading the league in first.

After the loss, Stade Francais slipped to 5-3 on the season and remain in third place, a reversal of the positions they held going into the match.

 

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