November 27, 2021

reconstituted hinges, exceptional scorers, touch … The keys to the match

For the first time in four years, the XV of France receives the All Blacks, Saturday, November 20 at the Stade de France (9 p.m. on France 2 and france.tv). Already winners against Argentina (29-20) and Georgia (41-15), the Blues are aiming for a pass of three, against an opponent they have not beaten since 2009. To overthrow the New Zealand mountain , Fabien Galthié’s players will have to perform well in all sectors. Decryption of the balance of power in five key points.

The animation of the game by two reconstituted hinges

After associating the indestructible Antoine Dupont with the whimsical Matthieu Jalibert, Fabien Galthié this time started Romain Ntamack in n ° 10. The Toulousain, shifted to the center against Argentina and Georgia, finds his favorite position. And his best friend, since they have formed the hinge of the Stade Toulousain or the Blues 21 times since September 2020. For a total of … 19 victories.

These two will deliver a true “match within the match” against their New Zealand alter-egos. Reference to the scrum, Aaron Smith (33 years old Sunday, 101 caps) was recalled urgently by his coach, even if he was on paternity leave. TJ Perenara, experienced but disappointing in Ireland (29-20 defeat), is paying the price for this return. As in the last World Cup, concluded with a third place, Smith will form the hinge with Richie Mo’unga (27 years old, 32 caps), who also returns to the starting XV in the absence of Beauden Barrett (concussion). Able to attack the line and with excellent foot play, his paddle perfectly complements that of Smith, sober but formidable in the management of the game with very fast ball exits.

Realism with a duel of exceptional scorers

Even though Richie Mo’unga is a good scorer, the kicks should come from New Zealand full-back Jordie Barrett. With 82% success against poles in 35 capes, he can become a danger for the Blues, often undefined. If they fall back into their Argentina shortcomings (13 penalties conceded), the French risk seeing the scoreboard swell.

But the Blues also have an exceptional fireworks display. Impressive since making his international debut in July, Melvyn Jaminet has managed 87% of her attempts across her five caps. This reception from New Zealand will constitute a new full-scale test for the rear which, let us remember, was still evolving in Pro D2 six months ago. With Romain Ntamack on the ground and Matthieu Jalibert on the bench, the Blues have two other solid alternatives capable of punishing Blacks penalized ten times in Ireland.

The management of the last minutes with the contribution of the bench

Fabien Galthié, who adopted the cliché “a match is won at 23”, will count on the contribution of his bench. Against Argentina, the “finishers” like Alldritt or Mauvaka – both holders on Saturday – made it possible to unlock the match. As from the start of the tour, the coach relies on a bench in “6-2”, include six forwards for two three-quarters.

“The idea is to have very strong finishers to maintain a bunch of forwards capable of dominating the opponent over 80 minutes”

Fabien Galthie

in press conference

Gaëtan Barlot and Demba Bamba explosives, as well as the Romain Taofifenua massif, are expected in this area. Matthieu Jalibert will cover the positions of opener and back, and can bring variation by shifting, for example, Romain Ntamack to the center.

For their part, the All Blacks bathe more in the classic with a bench in “5-3”. The alternatives Damian McKenzie (opener or back) and David Havili (back, center or winger) could bend the Blues on the outside, especially at the end of the game where France often suffered in the Galthié era. In Wales at the end of October or in Ireland last week, the New Zealanders scored almost half of their points (54-16 victory in Cardiff, 29-20 defeat in Dublin) in the last quarter of an hour.

Recovery balls, the hallmark of all-black success

The All Blacks excel on recovery balls. In Cardiff, they scored two tries by intercepting the ball on opposing launches of play, then two more following unstable Welsh clearances.

Faced with the formidable relaunchers Will Jordan or Jordie Barrett, the XV of France will not have to leave spaces and be effective in defense. The Blues excelled in the field against Argentina, with 94% successful tackle. But they lost Julien Marchand, their hooker so efficient to steal balloons in the opposing hands. Ntamack, Dupont and Jaminet will have, even more than usual, to take care of their occupation of the ground at the foot. The vista of the French captain and the rods of Damian Penaud also offer arguments to the Blues.

The key, vital launching pad with a Woki-Retallick duel

The touch, one of the famous “fundamental” sectors of rugby, risks fighting a tenacious battle. Defaulters in this field in Ireland, the New Zealanders remain one of the world references. A formidable jumper, the second-row Brodie Retallick (2.04 m) can be poison for the French roster. His duel with Cameron Woki, 3rd row player repositioned in the “cage”, will be capital.

Cameron Woki, sovereign in touch during the summer tour in Australia, in July.  (PATRICK HAMILTON / AFP)

Very comfortable against Georgia from the height of his meter ninety-six, Woki is the spearhead of the Bordeaux touch, best blocker of the Top 14. In the absence of Charles Ollivon and Sekou Macalou, he should be the player most involved in the exercise, even if François Cros or Grégory Alldritt can also jump. For his second start in blue, hooker Peato Mauvaka will have to be imperial in the throw. Especially since his opposite Dane Coles, 79 caps, is not the “pizza chef” type.