Thursday, October 04, 2007

McCaw expecting the 'real deal' (

McCaw expecting the 'real deal'
By JIM KAYES in Cardiff - Fairfax Media
Friday, 5 October 2007

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw is predicting the true French team will turn up for Sunday's World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff.

But some are wondering whether that team exists any more under coach Bernard Laporte.

The controversial coach stunned the French media yesterday when he named rookie Lionel Beauxis at first five-eighth and second-five Damien Traille at fullback.

Beauxis, 21, has played in nine tests and was preferred to Frederic Michalak, who is more creative but sometimes erratic, and David Skrela, France's No 1 first five-eighth during the last Six Nations.

Laporte said he opted for Beauxis "because we need his kicking talent, because territorial advantage will be the key of the game".

Having Traille at fullback, where he has played only a few times for France as a replacement, reinforced that attitude. For many this France side is yet more evidence that Laporte has stolen the soul of French rugby and that they will play conservatively on Sunday.

McCaw was not too sure. He said it was hard to judge as a player because the All Blacks were busy trying to make France play conservatively.

"We want to stop them chucking the ball around so whether that's their mind set or we haven't allowed them, I'm not sure," said McCaw.

"But they certainly have the ability to use the ball and we have to make sure they don't get a lot of time and space."

What he was confident of, however, was a tough match.

"Every test match I've played has been a fairly physical affair. To get the results we have we've had good preparation and we've respected the opposition.

"We've also had to perform pretty well. There is confidence that if we get the week right and have a good performance there's no reason why we can't get the result we're after.

"But it ain't just gonna happen."

Yet McCaw has played France seven times since his test debut against Ireland in 2001 and is yet to taste defeat against them.

At times the All Blacks have made it look ridiculously easy against France.

They won 61-10 and 41-11 in June, admittedly against a deliberately weakened side, but they also thrashed France 47-3 in Lyon last year.

Only last November's test in Paris, which the All Blacks won 23-11, has been close to a contest, on the scoreboard at least.

Under coach Graham Henry the All Blacks have scored 218 points against France and conceded just 41 for an average score of 44-8.

Yet McCaw insisted there was not much, if any, of a gap between the two sides.

"The Lyon test was tough to start with but it wasn't a true reflection of the two teams. We'd had a game and they hadn't.

"All the games haven't been like they are now, where everyone's at their best for a quarter-final.

"Perhaps the game in Paris last year was an indicator of the difference between the two teams, which is very little."

McCaw also suggested that at times France have been missing some of their better players - like in New Zealand in June - but that wasn't the case at the World Cup.

"This [the World Cup] is totally different. It will have the passion and excitement of playing in a World Cup quarter final and everything's that's happened up to now becomes irrelevant.

"They will be desperate and we've got to be desperate and come out and play with passion. If there's going to be an edge, that might be the difference."

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