Dupont’s France focused on All Blacks Test despite World Cup shadow

France captain Antoine Dupont said on Friday their focus is on this weekend’s Test against New Zealand and not the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The next time the sides meet after Saturday’s game in Paris will be for the opening match of the tournament in less than two years’ time.

Even the Webb Ellis trophy will be present at Stade de France.

“I’m not sure we’re looking that far ahead,” Dupont told reporters.

“Maybe there will be a little psychological aspect in relation to that opening game.

“I’m not sure they or we will have it in our head tomorrow night,” he added.

Les Bleus last faced the All Blacks in 2018 and have changed their coach and style since then with ex-skipper Fabien Galthie taking over.

Only five of Galthie’s side this weekend have already played against New Zealand, three-time World Cup winners, at senior level, including 25-year-old Dupont in 2017.

“It’s an important step because we’re playing a team that is among the references in the world in recent years,” Dupont said.

“We’re a team that’s building. We’ve got the chance to face this type of team which allows us to progress, get experience, improve,” he added.

Dupont, considered as one of the world’s best scrumhalves, will face Aaron Smith.

A World Cup winner in 2015, Smith makes his 102nd Test appearance after missing wins over the USA, Italy and Wales as well as the defeat by Ireland this month due to paternity leave.

“He remains a reference in the position,” he said.

“He’s got not much more to prove. It’s always good to be able to play against players of that stature. It’s always a pleasure to face the best.”

The All Blacks were denied meaningful possession in last weekend’s loss to Ireland and were forced to make 224 tackles to the hosts’ 96.

“They’re a smart side, they will stick to their strengths,” New Zealand captain Sam Whitelock told reporters.

“They would have looked at our last four, five games and come up with their own plan. Starving us of ball is something that worked for the Irish, so I’m sure the French side will use that tactic to some degree,” he added.

Due to a colour clash with France’s blue, Whitelock’s men will wear the unfamiliar white jersey on Saturday.

It will also have a red poppy on it in commemoration of war victims, including former New Zealand captain Dave Gallaher who died in 1917 in Belgium.

“It’s something as All Blacks that not a lot of people get to put on the white jersey. This is one of the ones that we do have that opportunity with,” he said.

“It makes it that little it more special. Every All Blacks jersey is special but the white jersey with a poppy makes it a little bit more special because it doesn’t happen very often.”

© Agence France-Presse

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Dylan Jack