Tonight’s match is an almost exact repeat of the 2007 World Cup quarter final. Same stage, same stadium. Same upset?
the Millennium Stadium match began with France staring down the All Black Haka, and ended with one of the most thrilling performances in Rugby World Cup history, perhaps only matched by France’s win in 1999 – also against New Zealand.
In the 2011 World Cup final, the French again formed up to face down the New Zealand pre-match challenge. This time, they lost out – just – to the host nation.
Sir Clive Woodward however before the tournament told Radio Times that it only poor refereeing saved New Zealand from another French shock.
“If I had been the coach of France in that World Cup I would still be apoplectic to this day,” he said of New Zealand’s 8-7 win. “If that final had been refereed properly, France would have won.”
Maybe that sense of injustice, coupled with memories of past performances, will spur the French on to another knockout blow. Neither side have had to show their best so far, but the return of All Black veterans Ma’a Nonu and Richie McCaw clearly puts the southern hemisphere side in the ascendancy.
But Thierry Dusautoir, the defensive hero of 2007, is in position as French captain again – and is playing on the mind of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
“He is one of the great players of all time,” said Hansen. “If there wasn’t a certain Richie McCaw running around during that same period, Dusautoir would probably be seen as the guy who has played the best rugby in that position over a long period of time.”
There is no doubt that these two captains will go down in history. As for this weekend’s match? Well, that’s up to the French.
Coach Phillipe Saint-Andre called for an “uprising” after the disappointing pool stage loss to Ireland. He might remember that four years ago, his predecessor Marc Lievremont was effectively ousted as coach by a player revolt, so perhaps he should pick his words more carefully.
That said, France are more than capable of a revolution – especially against the World Cup holders.