New Zealand fullback Beauden Barrett believes the World Cup will be a “fantastic” event which he hopes will start with a revenge victory over hosts France on Friday.
Despite his years of experience of World Cups, having featured at the 2015 and 2019 editions, Friday will be the 116-time international’s first taste of a tournament’s opening game.
Barrett’s last visit to Paris ended on a bitter note in a 40-25 defeat to Les Bleus in November 2021.
It was France’s first win over the All Blacks since 2009, a run of 14 victories, including the 2011 World Cup final.
“A lot of the guys, we’ve learnt so much in recent years,” Barrett told reporters on Wednesday.
“In particular the way the French put on an event in terms of the atmosphere, how they get behind their team, the ground announcements, the performance, it’s like a show.
“The home crowd will give them an advantage but we’ll use that as energy. The best way to stop that is to do the talking by scoring more points.
“These French boys have been waiting for this game for a long time, but so have we,” he added.
Adding to the anticipation at the tournament is the fact that five of the world’s top-ranked sides are on the same side of the draw as well as the improvement of teams such as Japan, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Georgia.
“You get that sense in recent years with the development of some nations. It’s going to be a fantastic tournament,” Barrett said.
“There’s been a lot of chat about the quarter-finals, and the draw, but we’re not looking too much past this first game.”
Barrett will line up alongside younger brother Scott, who plays at lock, on Friday but the third Barrett sibling, Jordie will miss the game with a knee injury.
“Jordie’s a bit down at the moment but he’ll bounce back,” Barrett said. “He’s a very determined young man.”
Facing Barrett’s side in France’s No 10 shirt on Friday will be Bordeaux-Begles’ fleet-footed Matthieu Jalibert. He will be partnering captain and 2021 World Player of the Year Antoine Dupont at halfback.
Jalibert has replaced Romain Ntamack who was ruled out of the World Cup after rupturing ligaments in his knee in August.
“I think he’s a fabulous player. He’s got a lot of skill and flair about him,” Barrett said. “We’ve been keeping an eye on him, Ntamack and Dupont and the whole team for a good few years now.
“With Jalibert, he’s really out there in terms of world class 10s so he’ll slot straight in,” he added.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images