France wary of New Zealand threat ahead of much-awaited curtain raiser

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New Zealand took a record beating by South Africa last month, but France are wary of the threat the All Blacks will pose when the two heavyweights face each other in the World Cup curtain raiser on Friday.

Although they were hammered 35-7 by the Springboks in a warm-up test, New Zealand enter the tournament having lost none of their 32 matches in the opening phase of nine World Cups.

“Playing a World Cup is a dream we’ve all had since we were kids, and starting against the All Blacks is a super exciting challenge. We can’t wait for it,” lock Thibaud Flament told a press conference on Tuesday.

Les Bleus, who have rediscovered their touch since Fabien Galthie took over after a mediocre 2019 World Cup, beat New Zealand for the first time since 2009 in an impressive 40-25 win at the Stade de France two years ago.

“This match was an important one. It was the first test with our fans after COVID and the stadium was boiling hot,” said assistant coach Karim Ghezal, in charge of the lineouts.

“In the last four years, we wanted to beat all the teams, and we managed to do that.”

Flament is also expecting a special night.

“We’re expecting a lot of energy from the crowd, the atmosphere will be (an) electric atmosphere,” he said.

“Everyone has been waiting for it. It will be a big battle, it’s the moment everyone will release all the energy they have accumulated.”

France will feel no pressure, added Flament.

“The game has a special flavour because the World Cup marks the end of a four-year cycle and it’s an opportunity to make history. It’s important for us (to win on Friday),” said Flament.

“So no pressure, really. It’s a big challenge but we’re well prepared. We know the Stade de France, its atmosphere, and we played the All Blacks not so long ago.”