Ian Foster points to fatigue as a factor as New Zealand fall to France

Emphatic 40-25 victory will provide a major confidence boost says coach Galthie

 France’s  Damian Penaud (right) celebrates with a team-mate after scoring a try against New Zealand during the ictory at  Stade de France in Saint-Denis,  Paris. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

France’s Damian Penaud (right) celebrates with a team-mate after scoring a try against New Zealand during the ictory at Stade de France in Saint-Denis, Paris. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

 

New Zealand coach Ian Foster believes his All Blacks team is improving despite suffering back-to-back losses against Ireland and France at the end of their northern hemisphere tour.

Foster’s team were handed a 40-25 loss by the French in Paris on Saturday a week after slipping to a 29-20 reversal against Ireland to finish the year on a low.

“There’s no denying the last two weeks were tough for us,” said Foster. “We came across two very good teams at the end of our season and they played well.

“If you look at our year, how do I feel about the progress? We’ve played more Tests than we’ve ever played, and we’ve won 12 out of 15. I know we get judged harshly, but we’re making progress.”

New Zealand won The Rugby Championship in October ahead of Australia and world champions South Africa with five victories from six matches before starting their tour with a huge win over the United States in Washington.

The All Blacks then notched up victories over Wales and Italy before concluding their overseas campaign with losses in Dublin and Paris.

“The one thing you’ve got to do is not get too downhearted by the last two weeks,” said Foster. “It hurts like anything and I know we haven’t got the results everyone wants, but I thought tonight we showed better composure in coming back into the game.

“We’ve still got a number of people who are learning what it’s like up here. We’ve learnt some lessons but we’ve got to deal with the pressure game better than what we’re doing at the moment.”

After a schedule that has seen southern hemisphere sides play in The Rugby Championship before embarking on their respective tours, Foster felt fatigue had taken its toll.

“If you look at the balance of it, look at South Africa and Australia and us, we’ve probably all run out of juice a little bit near the end,” he said. “But, gee, the top six or seven teams in world rugby right now are strong.”

France played some splendid rugby in an exhilarating first half as they claimed their biggest victory against New Zealand.

“In the first half, we played well, we suffocated them and the team believed in themselves,” said Galthie, who captained France to the 42-33 win in Marseille 21 years ago.

“At half-time we said to ourselves that we could do better, we had given them a couple of soft penalties. Even though they had only scored six points.”

New Zealand were 24-6 down at halftime – the biggest margin in their history, but they bounced back in the second half, scoring three tries in 20 minutes to narrow the deficit down to two points.

Turning point

But France had more in store.

Flyhalf Romain Ntamack launched a stunning counterattack from inside his 22 metres that ended close to the line, with Ardie Savea coming off his feet to keep Les Bleus at bay.

The number eight was sin-binned as a result and Melvyn Jaminet slotted the penalty home to put the hosts back in control.

Galthie said it was a turning point.

“It was the moment when Romain and the team said ‘stop, it’s enough’,” he explained. “Despite our moment of weakness we stayed composed, we did not crack,” said captain Antoine Dupont.

“We were never scared and we showed that after the hour,” said prop Cyril Baille.

Two years before hosting the World Cup, France snatched a landmark victory that will boost their confidence.

“This is an important moment, our 20th game since we took over,” said Galthie after his team completed a perfect autumn series following wins against Argentina and Georgia.

“This series and tonight’s game are an important step. It is a moment of growth and I think it will give the players a lot of confidence.”

“Now every team will be super motivated when they play against us,” said fullback Jaminet after a perfect kicking performance.

Scratching his head as he thought of areas to improve, Dupont said: “We need to keep the same level throughout our games.”

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