Written by @QuintenLetcher for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
New Zealand vs France | Saturday 22 June | New Plymouth | 09:35
The All Blacks wrapped up the series in Christchurch last week with a clinical 30 - 0 victory over a clumsy and disorganised France, and while the third and final test will now unfortunately lack the allure that accompanies a series deciding final, it still promises to provide more than enough exhilarating rugby to help kick-start your Saturday. Last week’s encounter was dominated from start to finish by the home side as Les Bleus disappointingly failed to reproduce the passion that brought them so close to victory a week before at Eden Park. Poor handling, ineffective decision making and the inability to defend against the brilliant kicking game of the All Blacks all attributed to the brutal demise of Phillipe Saint-Andre’s charges, but having rung in the changes this week for the final test it will be interesting to see just what young talent lies at his disposal.
The All Blacks pulled up their socks after a poor showing in Auckland, and although I failed to predict the resounding victory they achieved in the second test, I did warn just how much havoc could be caused by the Kiwis if Aaron Cruden found his feet with that venomous backline behind him. And cause havoc he did. Cruden read the game brilliantly from the kick off, with near perfect tactical kicking on attack while putting in some telling tackles around the breakdowns on defence. For the first time since pulling on that sacred jersey, Cruden played as if he was an All Black flyhalf instead of Dan Carter’s understudy. We will undoubtedly be seeing a lot more of the Chiefs number 10 in the future.
To Win (80mins)
New Zealand 1/20
New Zealand (-18.5) 9/10
France (+18.5) 9/10
Steve Hansen has decided to rest Aaron Cruden after his unparalleled display last weekend thanks to the return to fitness of Dan Carter. Flanker Victor Vito earns his first start in the black jersey this year, while Rene Ranger has finally forced his way into the starting XV after two impressive performances off the bench. Unfortunately, his failing to escape a contract with French club Montpellier means this will probably be his last appearance for the All Blacks. Piri Weepu will take up the scrumhalf duties as he returns from injury and Andrew Hore takes over at hooker from the injured Dane Coles.
Following last weekend’s dismal performance, Phillipe Saint-Andre has decided to bring in some young blood for the final test this Saturday. Jean Marc Doussain and Remi Tales will make up the worryingly inexperienced halfback pairing for Les Bleus with a mere three caps between them. They will however have the experience of centre Wesley Fofana to guide them, but facing the All Blacks that early in your career will cause more than a little anxiety I am sure. The loss of number 8 Louis Picamoles to injury is a massive blow for France, but it does allow Antonie Claassen, the son of ex-Springbok Captain Wynand Claassen, a start against the Kiwis which could prove interesting.
VERDICT: New Zealand (+18.5) 9/10
After witnessing last weekend’s bloodbath it is hard to contemplate anything different resulting from the final clash. But with Dan Carter returning after being out with a broken hand, it could cause the backline to become slightly unsettled after they finally managed to click with replacement Aaron Cruden last Saturday. But then again, when Carter is in form he could play with the South African cricket team behind him and still manage to pull off a victory. The All Blacks by 20.
Think we've got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this is going to play out.
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