France the perfect scenario for ton-up McCaw

PLAYING old rivals France in a World Cup clash at Eden Park is the perfect scenario to become the first All Black to win 100 caps, New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said last night.

The openside flanker will achieve the mark at a 60,000 sellout clash in Auckland this morning (9.30am, Irish) in a match more than likely to decide the winners of Pool A.

“If you were going to pick a place to play and a team to play against, the French would be one you’d pick,” McCaw admitted. “The last couple of days certainly I have got pretty excited and putting the fact of the personal stuff to one side it’s a big game anyway and I suppose the fact that it’s your 100th adds to it.”

McCaw has been a mainstay of the All Blacks side since making his debut against Ireland in a 40-29 win in Dublin a decade ago. A three-time winner of the IRB player-of-the-year award, he is widely regarded as one of the finest All Blacks and his skills at the breakdown and ability to read the play have consistently been a thorn in opponents’ sides.

The nervous energy surrounding the fixture has been growing in New Zealand all week as memories of France’s surprise World Cup wins over the All Blacks in the 2007 quarter-finals and 1999 semi-finals have re-surfaced.

Coach Graham Henry, who was also in charge in ‘07, was blunt when assessing the task ahead. “History shows the challenge,” he said, acknowledging the shock result four years ago saying it caused “a lot of pain for some people, they don’t want to go through that pain again.”

NEW ZEALAND: I Dagg, C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, R Kahui, D Carter, P Weepu; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, O Franks, B Thorn, S Whitelock, J Kaino, R McCaw (captain), A Thomson.

Replacements: A Hore, B Franks, A Williams, A Boric, A Ellis, C Slade, S Bill Williams.

FRANCE: D Traille, V Clerc, A Rougerie, M Mermoz, M Medard, M Parra, D Yachvili; JB Poux, D Szarzewski, L Ducalcon, P Pape, L Nallet, T Dusautoir (captain), J Bonnaire, L Picamoles.

Replacements: W Servat, F Barcella, J Pierre, I Harinordoquy, F Trinh-Duc, F Estebanez, C Heymans.

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