John Plumtree says All Blacks will channel ‘hurt and anger’ into France game

New Zealand coaches scale back training by ‘10 to 15 per cent’ after toll of effort against Ireland

New Zealand forwards coach John Plumtree talks to Ireland counterpart Paul O’Connell ahead of the match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland will no doubt feel New Zealand's wrath on their three-Test tour next July but in the shorter term Andy Farrell's men may not have done France any favours with their marquee autumn series match against the All Blacks at the Stade de France in mind next Saturday night.

John Plumtree, the All Blacks forwards coach who served in that capacity under Joe Schmidt with Ireland in 2013-14, admitted the review into their 29-20 defeat by Ireland had hurt.

“All players just want honesty and it’s our responsibility to make sure that we are honest, so in the review we just reviewed what we thought was really important and with the mindset that going forward this is going to help the boys.

“It’s not about catching anybody out, it’s about improvement, about where we can get better and also painting a picture for what’s really important this weekend.


“And of course the boys are a very proud bunch and they love this jersey more than anything, and when they feel that perhaps they’ve let it down it upsets them. That will turn to hurt and anger, and the best way to channel all of that is to use at as fuel for the game that’s coming, and that’s France on Saturday.”

Plumtree confirmed that Beauden Barrett is a doubt as he undergoes the return to play protocols following his failed HIA against Ireland. The toll of last Saturday’s game at the Aviva Stadium, when the All Blacks made 238 tackles, also prompted the coaching staff to scale back training by “10 to 15 per cent” today before affording the players a day off tomorrow.

This Saturday's clash is also a foretaste of the World Cup opener between France and New Zealand in under two years time at the same venue.

Although New Zealand have a whopping 48-12 head-to-head record in 61 Tests between the countries, with one draw, France has the greatest number of wins against the All Blacks of any northern hemisphere opponent.

They are also regarded as the All Blacks’ bete noire, especially in World Cups, following the epic semi-final and quarter-finals wins in 1999 and 2007, and were robbed of the 2011 final when losing 8-7 in Auckland.

Yet the All Blacks have won the last 14 meetings dating back to 2009, including an embarrassingly one-sided 62-13 quarter-final win in 2015, and Les Bleus last beat them on home soil in Marseilles 21 years ago. Not that Plumtree thought maintaining this sequence would have any relevance come the next World Cup.

“I think in two years’ time it won’t really matter. We’ll be different and they’ll be different again. But this is a big game. France, we know, have been waiting for us like every team that we play in this part of the world, so we know what the challenge looks like.

“This week has been interesting actually. When the All Blacks lose it’s certainly not the greatest environment to be in for the first couple of days. Everyone is pretty down about it but by the time we get to Thursday and Friday we’ll be really looking forward to it.

“Not that we’re not looking forward to it now but the edge will be sharper by the time Saturday comes around. It’s our last game of the year, a 15-game programme, it’s been a really long trip and hopefully we can just get some momentum, get some gainline and get our game going. If we can do that we’ll cause some real big problems for them.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times