Written by @QuintenLetcher for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
New Zealand vs France | Saturday 8 June | Eden Park | 09:35
The All Blacks take on Les Bleus in Auckland this Saturday in the first meeting between these two sides since the dramatic 2011 World Cup Final that ended 8-7 in favour of the hosts. The All Blacks will be trying to forget the unfortunate end to last year’s season that resulted in an unexpected loss to Stuart Lancaster’s young English team, ultimately putting an end to an impressive run of twenty consecutive matches undefeated for the world’s top-ranked side. The French have had a forgettable 2013 season so far, having lost to Italy, Wales and England in their first three matches of the Six Nations before scrapping a draw against the Irish in Dublin and finishing their campaign with a solitary victory over an ill-fated Scottish side. They haven’t managed to pull off a victory over the Kiwis since 2009. However, the All Blacks have remained wary of the unpredictable French ever since the controversial upset in the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Cup. France should look to exploit the All Blacks’ cautious approach as much as possible this Saturday if they have any intentions of causing an upset.
To Win (80mins)
New Zealand 1/10
New Zealand (-17.5) 9/10
France (+17.5) 9/10
With regular skipper Richie McCaw still enjoying his sabbatical, Steve Hansen has named Crusaders captain Kieran Read as his man to lead the All Blacks on Saturday. The elusive Dan Carter has been ruled out with injury, as has scrumhalf Piri Weepu. Regular backup Aaron Cruden takes over at flyhalf while Aaron Smith will come in for Weepu. Front-row veteran Tony Woodcock has also been sidelined with injury so Wyatt Crockett will earn his 12th cap for the All Blacks. Reserve prop Ben Afeaki and lock Jeremy Thrush are the only two uncapped players named in the 23-man squad that boasts a collective total of 377 caps.
Camille Lopez will earn his international debut when he runs out at flyhalf for the French this weekend, with regular number ten Frederic Michalak having to take a seat on the bench. There are two uncapped players named on the reserve list with South African born prop Daniel Kotze and Stade Francis lock Alexandre Flanquart hoping for a run to start off their test careers. Luc Ducalcon starts at tighthead in place of the injured Nicolas Mas, and Adrien Plante claims his first international start on the wing. Maxime Medard, the man who scored the winning try the last time the French beat the All Blacks four years ago, will collect his 33rd cap.
VERDICT: France (+17.5) 9/10
The All Blacks will have no problem collecting the win this weekend, but I found the -17.5 handicap a bit steep. Mainly because the French seem to make this otherwise overly-confident All Black side a bit nervous whenever they do meet, and because the French have a few unknown entities in their line-up that could catch the home side off guard. The Kiwis by 12.
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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