New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has dared rivals France to rediscover their attacking flair when the two sides do battle for a place in the World Cup semi-final at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
There are echoes of the 2007 tournament when France, runners-up in their pool, turned the tables on the much-fancied All Blacks to conjure a 20-18 victory in Cardiff.
Former Wales coach Hansen believes France’s domestic league has become “dour”, accusing the national team of adopting a similar mindset, although he expects Les Bleus to locate their counter-attacking fluency this weekend.
“France’s game was built around flair in the backs and real physicality up front,” said Hansen. “I’m not sure it’s the same flair they have now.
“The Top 14 has become quite a dour competition with a lot of physicality and I know they are trying to recapture the flair which is within them. You can see it when they let loose and we expect them to show it on Saturday.”
Despite New Zealand winning their last eight Tests against France, including an 8-7 victory in the 2011 World Cup final in Auckland, Hansen refuses to ignore the curiosity of France’s mesmeric tendencies.
“There has been a great relationship between the two countries for a long time, we’ve probably been on the same page most of the time,” added Hansen.
“From a rugby point of view there are days with France when you wonder who will turn up. But they always do on the big occasion.”