All Blacks stick to the script for second France test
‘If we chop and change every week, history has told us that we get sloppy’
Mathieu Bastereaud will captain France against New Zealand on Saturday. Photograph: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images
Rugby World Cup planning has loomed into full view with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen opting not to tinker with his team for the second test against France in Wellington on Saturday while Jacques Brunel has made five changes to the visiting side.
Hansen has made no secret of the fact that this year was about fine tuning selections and tactics ahead of their World Cup defence in Japan.
“At this time of the year, it’s the norm for us not to make too many changes,” Hansen explained on Thursday. “We’re trying to build who we are, bring together five teams into one, look at our game and try to build that.
“If we chop and change every week, history has told us that we get sloppy. As the season goes on, we’ll have to take some risks too. Those risks are about finding out if these guys are good enough to go to the World Cup.”
Showing faith in the same 23 players that won the first test 52-11 in Auckland, Hansen expected them to go out and seal the three-match series at Wellington Regional Stadium (8.35am Irish time) with a game to spare.
It took a while for the home side to crack the French in the series opener but they produced a blistering final 30 minutes to run in seven unanswered tries.
France coach Brunel, who was appointed last December, has also said he would use the tour of New Zealand to prepare for next year’s World Cup and has made five changes to the starting XV from Auckland and dropped two replacements. Coming into the side are loose forwards Kelian Galletier and Mathieu Babillot and fullback Ben Fall, who were unavailable for the first test because they arrived late in New Zealand after playing in the Top 14 final.
Toulouse centre Gael Fickou has come in on the wing for the injured Remy Grosso, suggesting Brunel is keen to get the multi-talented 24-year-old involved and see if he can develop in the position.
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett; Ben Smith, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, aron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks; Sam Whitelock (capt), Scott Barrett; Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Luke Whitelock. Replacements: Nathan Harris, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, Ngani Laumape
France: Ben Fall; Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud (capt), Geoffrey Doumayrou, Gael Fickou; Anthony Belleau, Morgan Parra; Dany Priso, Camille Chat, Uini Atonio; Bernard Le Roux, Yoann Maestri; Mathieu Babillot, Kelian Galletier, Kevin Gourdon. Replacements: Pierre Bougarit, Cyril Baille, Cedate Gomes Sa, Paul Gabrillagues, Alexandre Lapandry, Baptiste Serin, Jules Plisson, Maxime Medard