All Blacks ‘in the mood’ for World Cup tilt

NEW Zealand head coach Graham Henry believes the 47-3 mauling of France shows his side are in perfect shape for next year’s World Cup.

The All Blacks followed up their 41-20 defeat of world champions England at Twickenham last weekend with a seven-try trouncing of Europe’s other supposed heavyweight in Lyon on Saturday.

The fact that Henry made 10 changes to his team for the game against Les Bleus highlights the amazing strength in depth in the New Zealand squad, while in Dan Carter and Richie McCaw — who started in both games — they have arguably the best two players in the world.

Henry was quick to sing the praises of his players and feels the World Cup, which begins next September, cannot come soon enough.

“This was one of our best performances,” said Henry, whose team scored tries through Sitiveni Sivivatu (two), Carter, McCaw, Conrad Smith, Joe Rokocoko and Luke McAlister.

“We feel good ahead of the World Cup. We will play here, in Lyon, on this ground during the tournament so it is therefore good that we have won here.

“Our only problem, I suppose, is finding our best team, but I am delighted to have this problem. We are constantly trying to improve and these Tests constitute a fantastic platform for next year,” he said.

New Zealand managed to improve their display against France two years ago, when they demolished Les Bleus 45-6 in Paris.

Carter was once again the inspiration at fly-half, scoring 17 points and passing the 500-point test milestone in the process.

The All Blacks’ defence was near-flawless and their opportunism allowed them to make the most of a string of basic errors, in open play and in the set piece, by the home side.

“Each match is different so it is difficult to compare,” said captain McCaw, when asked if this performance was better than that of two years ago.

“But we are so happy. We took our chances and we played well in defence. That was brilliant. But the same France team that we played here can bounce back next week,” he said.

France captain Fabien Pelous believes the current New Zealand team is untouchable and fears his side could be beaten by an even greater margin when the two countries meet in the Stade de France in Paris next Saturday.

“It was a repeat of two years ago,” the lock added in L’Equipe. “We were in their half for a long time but we couldn’t make the most of it.

“For next week, we will try to resist them but if we are loose, we could lose not by 40 points but by 60 or 70 points. There is New Zealand and there is the rest of the world,” he said.

France coach Bernard Laporte added: “My players worked hard but the All Blacks were stronger. They run the 100 metres in 10 seconds, us in 12 seconds.

“Athletically, they are superior and, furthermore, they are quick with theball.”

Meanwhile, France have drafted flanker Serge Betsen and full-back Pepito Elhorga into their squad for next weekend’s second test.

Laporte has opted against making mass changes to his squad, despite the defeat.

Biarritz’s Betsen is recalled in place of Thierry Dusautoir, while Agen’s Elhorga comes in instead of Julien Laharrague.

FRANCE (squad v New Zealand): Backs: JB Elissalde (Toulouse), D Yachvili, D Traille (both Biarritz), F Fritz, Y Jauzion (both Toulouse), D Marty (Perpignan), C Dominici (Stade Francais), C Heymans (Toulouse), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), P Elhorga (Agen).

Forwards: P De Villiers, S Marconnet (both Stade Francais), O Milloud (Bourgoin), R Ibanez (Wasps), D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), P Pape (Castres), F Pelous (Toulouse), L Nallet (Castres), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin), S Betsen (Biarritz), R Martin (Stade Francais), E Vermeulen (Clermont Auvergne).

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