Time is right for the All Blacks to hit full speed

HERE TO PLAY: French captain Thierry Dusautoir must instil confidence in his young team.
HERE TO PLAY: French captain Thierry Dusautoir must instil confidence in his young team.

The return of Dan Carter could mean a heavy workload for rookie France first five-eighth Remi Tales tonight.

While much of the post-match attention went on the All Blacks' kicking and defensive strengths in the second test in Christchurch, the third test must surely be about refining their attack.

And what better place to start than the inside channel, where France have the collective test experience of four caps between numbers eight, nine and 10.

As far as baptisms of fire go, Tales will find more intimidating stadiums around the world, but facing an All Blacks side with its general restored, and looking to attack, must rate right up there.

Expect Carter to be the man wing Rene Ranger and Ma'a Nonu run angles off because once French loose forwards Antonie Classen and Damien Chouly have been tied up by All Blacks skipper Kieran Read, or sidekick Victor Vito, it will be Tales in the crosshairs.

Get the attacking mojo right and coach Steve Hansen will be able to introduce his next crop of talent off the bench.

France captain Thierry Dusautoir was typically laid back yesterday and it was hard to gauge whether or not the visitors will be up for the scrap. They rightly felt disappointed about not winning the first test and the 30-0 scoreline in the second.

But have they got enough fight in them for the third test in what they must consider a rugby backwater?

The answer will be found in their tight five.

Men such as Nicolas Mas do have an international reputation to uphold, after all, and they might just feel they could get the better of the dreaded scrum interpretations from referee Nigel Owens.

They are due, too.

Their return to New Zealand must feel like a bitter reminder of the 2011 Rugby World Cup and there is only one way to put some pride back in French rugby and that would be to take the scalp of the best side in the world.

One of many problems France has to overcome will be the ability of the All Blacks to change the game to suit the circumstance.

Experience in key positions should still count for a lot, even in a dead rubber.

Hansen has been at pains to remind the public that the gap between the two sides is not as large as what the scoreline in Christchurch would suggest.

Privately he would have driven the message home because the only way he can continue to integrate the likes of Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua will be to keep winning well.

Yes, there was a temptation to change the midfield and bring Ben Smith in a position, but he knows if he can get clarity and maturity from Nonu and Conrad Smith, the attacking options become more varied.

"If we can integrate our kicking and running game and take the right options at the right time, then I'll be really pleased," Hansen said.

"We've got more work to do at the breakdown because there has certainly been a different interpretation of what is allowed and what isn't allowed from the northern hemisphere referees. That's fine, we just have to adapt to that."


ALL BLACKS: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Rene Ranger, Daniel Carter, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read (c), Sam Cane, Victor Vito, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Steven Luatua, Matt Todd, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.

FRANCE: Brice Dulin, Marc Andreu, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget, Remi Tales, Jean Marc Doussain; Antonie Claassen, Damien Chouly, Thierry Dusautior (c), Yoann Maestri, Alexandre Flanquart, Nicolas Mas, Benjamin Kayser, Thomas Domingo. Reserves: Dimitri Szarzewski, Eddy Ben Arous, Luc Ducalcon, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Bernard Le Roux, Maxime Machenaud, Camille Lopez, Mathieu Bastareaud.