Preview: New Zealand v France
Ace flyhalf Dan Carter is back for the All Blacks as the prepare for the third Test against France on Saturday.
New Zealand have won the series but want more from their new "integrated" style with the return of ace flyhalf Dan Carter for the third Test against France on Saturday.
Despite winning 23-13 in Auckland before shutting out France 30-0 in Christchurch, assistant coach Ian Foster said they were still a long way from the balanced running-kicking game they desire.
"The key for us now is learning how to integrate both styles," Foster said ahead of the final match in New Plymouth.
The return of playmaker Carter, who missed the first two Tests because of a broken hand, is one of five changes to the All Blacks while France, desperate to avoid a whitewash, have made eight.
When Aaron Cruden directed play in the first two Tests, the All Blacks favoured a running game first up before switching to a more successful kicking tactic a week later.
Carter, with his vision and experience, is expected to mix up the plays and deny France any sense of predictability.
Head coach Steve Hansen described the impressive 30-0 victory in Christchurch as "a step forward to where we want to go" but said he wants Carter to lift the side to greater heights.
"I don't think France will give us the backfield as easily as they did last time. If we can integrate our running game and kicking game and take the right options at the right time, I'll be really pleased."
Notable among the other All Blacks changes are a starting role for scrumhalf Piri Weepu, playing his 71st Test with his future under threat from Aaron Smith, who started the first two Tests, and replacement Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
Victor Vito replaces Liam Messam in the six jersey as the All Blacks continue to search for an imposing blindside flanker to fill the role vacated by Jerome Kaino after the 2011 World Cup.
If Vito doesn't seize this chance then Steve Lautua is waiting on the bench.
Lautua is covering both lock and six for his prospective debut while the other newcomers likely to get a run in the second-half are Matt Todd, a specialist openside, and fullback Charles Piutau.
It has not been a champagne year for France - bottom of the Six Nations and already 2-0 down in New Zealand -- but coach Philippe Saint-Andre is eager to point out the positives.
"For two Tests we have had more possession than the All Blacks. So the guys can keep the ball, they can play rugby, they can create opportunities," he said.
Two of the eight French changes are straight replacements for the injured Louis Picamoles and Frederic Michalak, and six are players "who can bring us some creativity and a lot of urgency" with an eye on the 2015 World Cup.
The new scrumhalf and flyhalf pair of Jean-Marc Doussain and Remi Tales have just three caps between them, while fullback Brice Dulin and wing Marc Andreu have both played six Tests.
In the forwards Benjamin Kayser starts at hooker and Alexandre Flanquart at lock. South African-born Antonie Claassen and Damien Chouly join the back row.
Saint-Andre said the French preparation has been focused on areas that let them down over the past two weeks.
"It's the last game of a long, long season and our guys need to have a go, they need to respect New Zealand but don't respect them too much."
Players to watch:
For New Zealand: Israel Dagg is starting to regain the form that saw him as the best fullback in world rugby in the last year and he will provide a serious threat for the French on attack and his kicking game has improved incredibly. Dan Carter makes his r eturn to the starting XV and Steve Hanson wants him to mix up the play which is exactly what he will do behind a dominant pack of forwards. Sam Whitelock is another player that returned last week and was incredible for the All Blacks, he defends well, wins his line-outs and reads the game beautifully.
For France: Brice Dulin gets his f irst Test start of the tour. He is highly rated and will want to give the French an option on attack as well as being able to field a lot of the Dan Carter pin-point kicks. Wesley Fofana has been one of their standout players this tour but has not had too much support. He will be very important if France are going to get over the line in this Test. Captain Thierry Dusautoir has to have a massive game if France are going to have any chance on Saturday.
Head to head: The battle at the back is going to be o ne to watch. Dagg is class but Dulin wants to prove a point in the French No.15 jersey. Whitelock against Maestri will be another big match-up and whoever can get the upper-hand at the set piece will give their side the opportunity to gain control of the game.
2013: New Zealand won 30-0, Christchurch
2013: New Zealand won 23-13, Auckland
2011: New Zealand won 8-7, Auckland
2011: New Zealand won 37-17, Auckland
2009: New Zealand won 39-12, Marseille
2009: New Zealand won 14-10, Wellington
2009: France won 27-22, Dunedin
2007: France won 20-18, Cardiff
2007: New Zealand won 61-10, Wellington
2007: New Zealand won 42-11, Auckland
Prediction : The French will be better this week but they will be no match for the All Blacks who have got Dan Carter back in their side. New Zealand will win the game by at least 15 points.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.
France : 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Marc Andreu, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Yohann Huget, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Jean Marc Doussain, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
R eplacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Luc Ducalon, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Bernard le Roux, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.
Date: Saturday June 22
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Kick-off: 19.35 (09.35 French time; 07.35 GMT)
Expected weather: Some serious rain predicted for the afternoon but clearing for the evening with a high of 10°C and a low of 7°C.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Alain Rolland (Ireland)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
AFP & Rugby 365