x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

French poised to ambush McCaw's coronation

The New Zealand flanker will hope to celebrate to celebrate his 100th cap by beating their World Cup nemesis.

AUCKLAND // Thierry Dusautoir, the France captain, has the utmost respect for his New Zealand counterpart Richie McCaw but still plans to wreck celebrations for the flanker's 100th cap.

McCaw, who has been voted world player of the year three times, will be the first All Black to reach the milestone when the World Cup hosts take on the French in a pivotal Pool A encounter at Eden Park.

"He has been the best flanker in the world for 10 years now," Dusautoir said yesterday. "I think he has one year less experience than me yet I have only half the caps.

"So I can just respect this guy because he leads the All Blacks really well and he's still a great player.

"I'm sad because we are going to waste his party."

Playing old rivals France in a World Cup clash at Eden Park is the perfect scenario to become the first All Black to win 100 caps, McCaw said.

"If you were going to pick a place to play and a team to play against, the French would be one you'd pick," McCaw said. He was set to achieve the feat last week in less glamorous circumstances against lowly Japan at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium, but a calf injury ruled him out after he had been selected.

"Had it happened last week it still would have been pretty cool so I wasn't too worried either way. But now that it has come down to this occasion the thing now is to make sure it is a good memory," McCaw said after completing final preparations under sunny skies in Auckland.

"The last couple of days certainly I have got pretty excited and putting the fact of the personal stuff to one side it's a big game anyway, and I suppose the fact that it's your 100th adds to it."

Dusautoir scored his country's opening try and made 38 tackles when they knocked the All Blacks out of the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Cup.

That was one of two stunning reverses in the knockout stages of rugby's showpiece event (the other came in 1999) that have made the New Zealanders so wary of France.

Dusautoir, 29, said that the Cardiff match in 2007 was one of the toughest he had ever played in and expected a similar standard today at a stadium where the All Blacks have not lost since the French triumphed in 1994.

"I've never played a game like this again but it was physical and tough mentally because it was a quarter-final at a World Cup," the Frenchman said.

"I'm sure this is going to a similar game and I hope we can win again."

Dusautoir also captained France when they beat a weakened All Blacks team in Dunedin in 2009, experiences which the coach Marc Lievremont said would hold his players in good stead today.

"It probably does help the French team given that there are a few members of this team that have beaten the All Blacks before," he said. "So they know it is possible to do it. But for the New Zealand team, it probably does not mean so much."

With the losers of today's match likely to end up in the weaker half of the draw for the knockout stages, the French have been accused of putting out a weakened side for the highly anticipated match.

Lievremont, who has handed a first start at fly-half to Morgan Parra, dismissed the allegation, as expected.

"Notwithstanding some of the reports seen in the press, the team really wants to do well in this particular game," he said. "It is a really important game for us to win."