No excuses for the All Blacks in final test

06:52, Jun 22 2013
All Blacks training
Captain Kieran Read goes high over Ofa Tu'ungafasi, who was brought in for training help.
All Blacks training
New caps Steven Luatua and Francis Saili join Ma'a Nonu on a warm-up run.
All Blacks training
Sam Cane and Matt Todd run through a drill.
All Blacks training
Some of the backs keep warm with a run.
All Blacks training
Ben Afeaki and Tony Woodcock get some passing in.
All Blacks training
Victor Vito and Steven Luatua run through a drill.
All Blacks training
Steven Luatua and Brodie Retallick get ready for an innovative workout in the rain.
All Blacks training
Beauden Barrett warms up with fellow first five Aaron Cruden.
All Blacks training
The injured Dan Carter looks on during a wet All Blacks training.
All Blacks training
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen keeps covered up as the All Blacks train in a windy and wet Auckland.
All Blacks test preparations
Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea and Francis Sail react to a kick during a light-hearted moment at the end of All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Matt Todd is tackled by Ben Franks at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Piri Weepu at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Piri Weepu shares a joke with All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster at training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Francis Saili practises his kicking at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Dan Carter enjoys himself at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Kieran Read surveys the scene at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
The All Blacks get in some scrum practice at training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Israel Dagg at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
Kieran Read
All Blacks captain Kieran Read plays with daughter Elle during the captain's run at AMI Stadium.
Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick
Sam Whitelock (left) and the man he replaced, Brodie Retallick.
Brodie Retallick
Brodie Retallick gets worked on by the All Blacks physio during a training session on Thursday.
Ma'a Nonu
Ma'a Nonu shares a joke with a team-mate during the captain's run.
Matt Todd and Wyatt Crockett
Matt Todd (left) and Wyatt Crockett play with Crockett's kids at AMI Stadium.
Kieran Read Crockett
Kieran Read with his two daughters Eden (left) and Elle during the All Blacks' final training.
Sam Whitelock
Sam Whitelock participates in the All Blacks captain's run, as (from left) Brodie Retallick, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks watch.
All Blacks prepare for France
The All Blacks front row gets in some scrum practice in New Plymouth ahead of the last test with France.
All Blacks prepare for France
Halfback Aaron Smith gets in some passing practice in New Plymouth.
All Blacks prepare for France
Blues backrow Steven Luatua looks set to make his All Blacks debut against France this weekend after being named on the bench.
All Blacks prepare for France
Dan Carter training at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth ahead of the All Blacks' last test with France.

Cast your mind back 12 months to the All Blacks' thrashing of Ireland in Hamilton.

A similar, if slightly less emphatic, statement than the 60-0 pasting could be brewing in New Plymouth tonight.

After three weeks together, the All Blacks' understanding of their game plan and each other is three times better than when they first assembled. Expect that to be reflected in their performance.

From Auckland to Christchurch, coach Steve Hansen's men dramatically improved. The trend should continue against the French, who appear to be out on their feet at the end of a 10-month season.

There are no excuses for the All Blacks, who will field one of their oldest backlines in test history, featuring a combined age of 200 years. Fullback Israel Dagg, 25, is the youngest, but not the least experienced.

While the Dave Gallaher trophy is safely locked away and there has not been the same edge to the All Blacks' trainings in miserable conditions, competition for places is a powerful motivator. And there is plenty within this squad.

This test carries great importance for halfback Piri Weepu and blindside flanker Victor Vito.

"The only outcome we are after is 3-0," captain Kieran Read said yesterday.

"It's been a challenging week with the weather and things, but we've got guys coming in who are really excited.

"That just adds a little spark to the rest of the group. We're in a good space."

Welcoming back Dan Carter, the world's best first five-eighth, to chase a series sweep is a luxury no other nation could contemplate.

His classy qualities were evident at training this week when he took the ball to the line and fooled his team-mates.

After two weeks out with a broken hand, Carter is one of many demanding excellence in his 95th test.

"It's very important. That's something we've talked about," the 31-year-old said.

"We want to get better each game. It's still early days in the season,;only our third test.

"We've had another week together, worked on a lot of combinations and know our game plan better. It's really important we sign off this series on a high."

For the French, being held scoreless last week was a massive physiological blow.

Les Bleus threw everything at the All Blacks' defiant defence and came away with nothing.

The tourists have since lost their best performer, impressive No 8 Louis Picamoles, and with only pride to play for must have one eye on the flight home.

Coach Philippe Saint-Andre will be craving early points, or this could turn ugly.

"We could be coming here at one-one," French captain Thierry Dusautoir said. "But we still come here and do our best to win.

"Maybe physically we are not as strong as we were three weeks ago."

Of course, nothing is a given with the French. If they get a sniff of an unlikely upset, plans for Steven Luatua, Charles Piutau and Matt Todd could be derailed.

Hansen, ideally, wants some breathing space before introducing his three rookies.

Boosting his three-match unbeaten captaincy record before passing the baton to Richie McCaw will also be on Read's agenda.

His uncle Bill, the groundsman at Yarrow Stadium, no doubt shared a quiet word at their family dinner about delivering the proud province a fitting result in their first taste of professional rugby for over eight months.

"He certainly wants me to do the business," Read said. "He doesn't want to be known as the ground that lost a test match."

If the All Blacks get comfortable, don't discount some experimentation. That could include Rene Ranger in the midfield and, possibly, Piutau on the wing.

Striking a balance between their running and kicking game will be top of the to-do list.

The French will surely be more awake at the back, which could spark some creativity from Carter and company.

If the patchy weather plays its part, over 23,000 fans could be in for a treat.

This is far from a dead rubber for the All Blacks.

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All Blacks vs France - First test
Kiwi and French fans enjoying the atmosphere at Eden Park before kick-off.
All Blacks vs France - First test
The French team stands to face the haka.
All Blacks vs France - First test
All Blacks captain Kieran Read takes a run at the French defence.
All Blacks vs France - First test
Prop Wyatt Crockett takes it on the full.
All Blacks vs France - First test
First five Aaron Cruden attempts a kick at goal for the All Blacks.
All Blacks vs France - First test
French captain Thierry Dusautoir in action at Eden Park.
All Blacks vs France - First test
Aaron Smith smiles as he cruises in for a try.
All Blacks v France - First test
Flanker Sam Cane goes in under the posts for the All Blacks.
All Blacks vs France - First test
Ma'a Nonu makes a break for the All Blacks.
All Blacks vs France - First test
All Blacks fans singing aloud at Eden Park during the clash with France.
Ben Smith
Ben Smith, who set up a counter-attack try for Aaron Smith late in the first half, cuts through the French defence.
French fans
A section of French supporters show off their colours at Eden Park.
French huddle
The French side huddle before kick-off in the first test against the All Blacks.
Aaron Smith
All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith looks to force a turnover from French hooker Dimitri Szarzewski.
France score
France celebrate their first half try as dejected All Blacks look away.
All Blacks scrum
The engine room of the All Blacks, the front row of (from left) Owen Franks, Dane Coles and Wyatt Crockett pack down, with Liam Messam on the side.
All Blacks v France second test
French fans capture the occasion ahead of kick-off in the second test at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
All Blacks v France second test
All Blacks fans soak up the atmosphere ahead.
All Blacks v France second test
The All Blacks perform the haka ahead of the second test against France from AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
All Blacks v France second test
Julian Savea goes in to score the opening try of the game.
All Blacks v France second test
Ma'a Nonu makes a break for the All Blacks.
All Blacks v France second test
Louis Picamoles of France is tackled by Sam Cane
rug1
All Black left wing Julian Savea scores.
rug2
All Black fullback Israel Dagg in full flight.
rug3
All Black centre Conrad Smith fends French replacement Mathieu Bastareaud.
rug4
All Black first-five Aaron Cruden in action.
rug6
A young fan waves a sign at AMI Stadium.
rug7
Ben Smith is congratulated by his team mates after his try.
All Blacks scrum
Steam rises from the forward packs as the rain falls at AMI Stadium.
Louis Picamoles
French No 8 Louis Picamoles is stretchered from the field after an injury.
Israel Dagg
All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg breaks a tackle in the second test.
Dan Carter and Aaron Cruden
Aaron Cruden (right) hands the kicking tee to injured first-five/water-boy Dan Carter.
Dan Carter
CLASS ACT: Dan Carter's quality has been evident at All Blacks training this week.
Dan Carter
CLASS ACT: Dan Carter's quality has been evident at All Blacks training this week.

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