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RugbySport

History here to be written say fired-up French ahead of opener

rugby world cup 2023 france training
Les Bleus train ahead of the Rugby World Cup opener against the All Blacks

Past meetings between two old foes will count for nothing when France and New Zealand face off in what promises to be another vintage clash in the Rugby World Cup curtain raiser on Friday, Les Bleus’ general manager Raphael Ibanez said.

The former France captain was in the team who beat the All Blacks in the 2007 quarter-finals but, while it remains a great memory, Ibanez believes past achievements will not help his team beat the three-time world champions at the Stade de France.

“I don’t think past matches will have any bearing on the outcome of tomorrow’s game,” Ibanez told a news conference on Thursday.

“It’s something we discussed with everyone in the squad but to be honest there are no lessons to learn from those past games. We’re in front of a blank page.”

Lock Cameron Woki said this France team would write their own chapter. “For this generation history is to be written,” he said.

France and New Zealand have played several classics, with Les Bleus’ sensational 43-31 semi-final win at Twickenham in 1999 being ingrained in every rugby fan’s memory.

The last World Cup encounter turned into a nightmare for France, who were hammered 62-13 in the last eight in 2015.

The French, however, can draw confidence from their last test against the All Blacks which they won 40-25 in 2021 – their first victory since 2009 against the Southern hemisphere team.

On Friday, France will be able to rely on massive crowd support from most of the 80,000 fans at the Stade de France, just like they did less than two years ago.

“Obviously tomorrow will be a big day for all of us. We’ve been waiting for this game for four years,” said Ibanez.

“We cannot wait to be getting into this tournament.”

Flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert, who starts alongside captain Antoine Dupont as Romain Ntamack is missing the tournament with a knee injury, warned that precise kicking would be paramount.

“It’s a lethal weapon at international level and we’ve been using it a lot in recent matches,” he said.

“The more pressure we put on our opponents the more we put them in difficulty. Tomorrow will be a very strategic game. You can’t give them easy balls – and the kicking game will be decisive.”

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