Sonny Bill Williams says France have benefitted from the success of their U20 side as Les Bleus prepare to face the All Blacks in the World Cup opener.
On Friday, Williams’ New Zealand play tournament hosts France in the World Cup’s opening game less than two months after Les Bleus’ U20 side won a third straight junior world title.
“When I see the French, the chickens are coming home to roost,” former centre Williams told AFP.
“The last few U20 World Cups they’ve won and the young fearless players that are coming through, France represent that.
“They don’t have the fear factor of the All Blacks, that’s why they’re scary, that’s why for me they’re one of the favourites,” he said, adding Ireland to the list of title contenders.
This weekend, the All Blacks start their attempt at a record fourth World Cup, by facing the in-form Les Bleus.
Captaining the home side will be Antoine Dupont, a nuggetty scrum-half who grew up near the Pyrenees mountains.
Williams compared Dupont to former UFC great Khabib Nurmagomedov, from Dagestan, Russia
“He’s a special player,” Williams said. “He’s had that Khabib upbringing, natural physical ability from being in fresh air.
“I like his style, very physical.
“He’s a representation of this young scary French player coming through the French system, not scared,” Williams added.
The 38-year-old was part of an All Blacks generation to lift the Webb Ellis trophy twice, alongside the likes of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu.
“I was lucky, I was very fortunate to be in a great side,” Williams, who spent two years of his union career with French club Toulon, said.
“I always loved the fact that I was in a group, in the sheds and I understood there were some great players in the team and all I had to do was my job.
“Some good memories, but everyone has their time,” he added.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: EPA/Christophe Petit Tesson