New Zealand people believe in all blacks against France

New Zealand people believe in all blacks against France

Oliver Ritchie, a New Zealand journalist for Discovery TV, arrived in France a few days ago, to follow his country throughout the competition. Ahead of the opening match against France (Friday, 9.15pm), he takes a look at the state of the All Blacks and in particular the Blues' chances of winning at home.

Since their arrival in France, how do you feel about the All Blacks?

Looks good so far. Although today we learned that Jordie Barrett suffered a left knee injury. Far from ideal news, especially if he has to withdraw because he was one of the best players this year. He is the true central midfielder in the All Blacks' midfield alongside Rieko Ioane. There are good alternatives in this position if necessary such as David Hafeli. Let's see how Jordie Barrett recovers and hopefully he will be available for this first game. Other than that, the team overall is back to doing well after this defeat in England to the Springboks. We of course hope for a better performance than them on Friday.

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In New Zealand, how are people treating this match against France?

They are optimistic. They know that this match against France will be close. Although France have been more consistent in recent years and the team has really grown. The French know who they are, and they know how they will have to play against us. We saw that in 2021, when we played them at the Stade de France. We didn't have many answers to give them. Roman Ntamack was a key component of this team. So he won't be there, which is a big blow. But there is a lot of enthusiasm for this meeting. A result that will certainly be very close between two good teams. There will be a little tension, and a little optimism probably. There are still two very good and strong teams facing each other in the opening match of the World Cup.

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Can they beat the French?

They could completely overpower the French. But it will remain tight. Then, if the All Blacks play the way they did against South Africa (35-7 defeat) at Twickenham, they will be completely outclassed. They can't afford to be this bad. They need to be more disciplined on set-pieces, which they have been able to do this season as well. They will also have to face the public. Thousands of fans will scream in support of the French. It won't be a fun time for the All Blacks. But they remain a great team that is ready to take them on.

Do you think their recent defeat to South Africa will raise doubts or, on the contrary, will overcome them?

Defeats are interesting but depend on how you use them. They had to look at this match to see what worked and what didn't. We hope they use it as a learning experience. In this match they made a lot of mistakes, they were not disciplined, and that was a problem. Since then, they have undergone several days of training. I hope they fixed these problems.

The All Blacks will start the World Cup without being favourites, is that a difficult thing to manage?

During the World Series, the favorites don't necessarily win. In 2019, they were the favorites but didn't make it all the way. Same thing in 2007, where they lost in the quarter-finals to the French. So it is not uncommon for filters not to prevail. In the meantime, I think this will be the closest World Cup we will ever see. There are France, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand, and I think one of these countries will be world champions. But for us anyway, I think it's good to be under the radar.

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Conversely, do you think the pressure will necessarily be on the Blues' shoulders?

France begins this adventure with huge expectations. They have an entire nation behind them and believing their team can win the World Cup. And waiting all this can play tricks. How to manage stress? How do you deal with all the chants on the field? Because everyone expects them to beat the All Blacks. It will be interesting to see how they react to all of this. I think they are good enough to win the World Cup.

Comments compiled by Lena Marjak

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