With no disrespect to Argentina or Georgia, they’re not the most challenging sides France could have faced so far over these Autumn Internationals, though there’s none bigger than New Zealand.
Le Bleus struggled over the line against Los Pumas, though were comfortable in victory over Georgia despite not covering the 37 point handicap line. This will be a real challenge though as they look to overcome the All Blacks for the first time since 2009.
New Zealand had won three on the bounce since their defeat to the Springboks at the end of the Rugby Championship at the beginning of October, but with those wins coming against USA, Italy and a second string Welsh side, it’s not exactly an impressive feat.
They faltered in their first real test of the Autumn when losing 29-20 to Ireland last weekend, so this is far from a foregone conclusion.
All Blacks -6 Handicap
Since that last French win in 2009, the All Blacks have won 14 consecutive matches and are going to be extremely difficult to turnover considering. The Handicap line currently sits at six points, a line that New Zealand have covered in 11 of those 14 wins including each of the last four.
Admittedly, the most recent three of those did come in New Zealand, and only three of those 14 games were played here at the Stade de France, with the visitors’ margin of victory in each coming by 5,7 and 20 point margins.
The handicap could be seen as an overcorrection to New Zealand’s defeat last weekend, though with Ian Foster making seven changes to his line-up that could also play a factor.
The most notable change comes at half-back where Aaron Smith plays his first test in three months, and his experience will undoubtedly prove invaluable in the battle of the nines.
Beauden Barrett remains unavailable so Richie Mo’Unga will play at 10, and while Barratt is a substantial loss, Mo’Unga is one of the best around will provide great dynamism to this backline.
Fabien Galthie has fielded his strongest possible side here and they could give New Zealand a really good game, though the Southern Hemisphere side have lost just two of their last 15 outings, so it’s unlikely they’ll manage two on the bounce and we’d expect a big response from the visitors.
ALL BLACKS -6 HANDICAP