New Zealand Work Extra Hard to Defeat French XV Selection in Lyon

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While not a test match in name, the feeling on the ground was exactly the same intensity. As New Zealand ran on an All Blacks side with few experienced players, they had to face a nugget and hard French XV Selection in Lyon.

The result was not assured, right up till the last minute, the French XV Selection made life tough for the young New Zealand team. At times, it was a to-and-throw, but in the end four tries to three was the winning of the game.

Post-game, captain Luke Whitelock – who worked tirelessly and was an effective ball runner and problem solver – eloquently put it;

“Awesome experience, loved every minute of it”

New Zealand Work Extra Hard to Defeat French XV Selection in Lyon

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the NZ side. They were pressured into many errors. Some basic, but others were the type that a manufactured team can make. As did the composite French XV selection. But aside from continuity, the teams played with heart.

None of the huge bust-ups or fights of years past occurred [thankfully], the game was played in good spirits. The officials never having to come down hard–although the cries from the fans could have seemed like the All Blacks infringed all night.

Many times the delays of Television Match Official (TMO) rulings halted the flow of the game, but in the second half it was riveting stuff. Especially after Jack Goodhew was given a yellow card for an off the ball transgression. And during that time, the French did make a comeback. A late try to Henry Chavancy was very nearly a sign of trouble, but the old heads of Lima Sopoaga and Ardie Savea calmed the ship. Seeing off the French XV Selection challenge, the team had success even with so many new players on debut.

Prop Atu Moli, loose forwards Akira Ioane and Dillon Hunt, halves Mitchell Drummond and Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue join the special club, as All Blacks [even though this was not a full test match].

TMO Rulings Bring Sharp Retort From Steve Hansen

The head coach has always been astute in his judgements on match officials. Never too exact, he is either impressed, or unimpressed. But the use of the TMO and the relation between replays on the large screen at Groupama Stadium, got to Hansen today.

With the raucious crowd calling out whenever a possible transgression occur, the vocal nature did occasionally appear to perk the eyes of the officials. And it is a trend which Hansen has seen in World Rugby, and does not like.

He said “we allowed them back in through sometimes not all our own fault. The disappointing point at times is when people running the big screen get to control the game. So World Rugby need to do something about that.”

Asked to clarify his comments, the All Blacks coach was specific. “You can’t be tried by the big screen. It’s either the TMO or the ref that are going to do that.

“If you keep showing it on the big screen and the crowd starts going crazy, you get decisions turned around.”

“They only show what they want to show, and I think it was poor”, he told Fairfax Media.

For Hansen it mirrored a call in 2014, when a big screen replay implicated that Liam Messam had been guilty of the faintest of late tackles. Shown over three times, it resulted in a Patrick Lambie penalty that won the game for the Springboks.

Aside from Big Screen Operators, Hansen Happy with Team

Hansen then threw out the bouquets for his new debutant All Blacks. “The biggest bonus was the fact these guys got to play two games, and out of the Barbarians there was an opportunity for five of them to come join us

“We have been able to prepare some younger men not only for tomorrow, but beyond. There’s a lot of talk about 2019, but some of these guys may not get their opportunity till after ’19.”

New Zealand’s flanker Liam Squire is tackled by France’s right wing Gabriel Lacroix during the France XV Selection v New Zealand. (Photo credit FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Not only the new players impressed. Liam Squire scored a try within 10 minutes, and put his name up for further roles this tour. Nathan Harris too, who is the certain back-up hooker (after Dane Coles’ injury) and David Havili showed he can operate under pressure. But it was a group effort that got the team past a tough French unit today.

Handshakes and back slaps could be heard from the New Zealand teams changing rooms post match. Six new All Blacks were awarded a credit as ‘played one match for New Zealand’. Each of them were chosen for long term goals, and will leave for home extremely happy that they did not let the heritage of the black jersey down.

Hansen told reporters, “you could go right through the group. I think everybody did what we asked them to do and enhanced their reputations.”

Long Term Goals in Place – but Scotland is Next Test

A real test now looms in Edinburgh. Scotland the Brave, and Scotland at home. It might not look it, but the Scots know how to play well. It is just if the All Blacks allow them any opportunities.

Vern Cotter did a lot to bring back Scottish confidence, and they only missed out on a World Cup quarterfinal place by the slimmest of calls. So under new coach Gregor Townsend, if the hosts stand firm against the tide, they could be in for a heroic performance.

But if the last result for the visitors; which was a 20 point win, was not up to their grade. Then fans know, this All Blacks team will want to reach into the pockets…and could pull out a big winning margin.


Scotland v New Zealand – Murrayfield, Scotland

Kick-off: 3:15pm (local time) Saturday, November 19


“Main photo credit”
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