The world champion All Blacks look to finally put their 2007 World Cup demons to rest when they play France in the second quarter final, on Sunday morning.
It was almost eight years ago at Millennium Stadium that France stunned the rugby world and toppled the All Blacks in a controversy-riddled encounter. The sides will run out onto the same patch of grass this weekend for another sudden death world cup showdown.
The All Blacks have scored 25 tries and conceded just three in their first four hit-outs of the tournament. The defending champions look to be hitting their straps after what was a rocky opening game against a spirited Argentinian side. The top-ranked side welcomes back some big names for its date with destiny, including captain Richie McCaw, who was rested last week
For the French, it has been a somewhat underwhelming start to the tournament. Last week’s loss to Ireland highlighted some fundamental holes in their game and an error-riddled performance from Frederic Michalak, the hero of their famous 2007 victory, would have done little to boost the team’s confidence.
Still, one can never count out the French come World Cup time, let alone when they line up against the All Blacks.
The key match-up will again be between the captains, Richie McCaw and Thierry Dusautoir, both flankers.
If the French have any chance of causing another upset on Sunday, they will need a man-of-the-match performance from Dusautoir, who had a career-high 38 tackles in the 2007 upset and carried the ball powerfully for his side.
McCaw, having been a part of both the 2007 heartache and the 2011 nail-biter, which the All Blacks won by just one point, will know better than most that the French cannot be underestimated and that his side will have to be at its best to dispel those Millennium Stadium ghosts.
All Blacks to win by 15 points.
Kickoff is on Sunday at 6am AEST. – Jackson Thomas
Top photo from the All Blacks’ Official Facebook page.