Championship - France to kick off World Cup preparations in New Zealand

France's tour of New Zealand will be key to their preparations towards the next rugby World Cup in 2015, coach Phillipe Saint Andre has said.

Reuters
Championship - France to kick off World Cup preparations in New Zealand
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France's Yoann Maestri (C) fights for the ball during their Six Nations rugby union match against Scotland at the Stade de France

Saint Andre and the majority of the 35-man squad arrived in New Zealand on Thursday for their four match tour, which includes three Tests against the world champion All Blacks and a mid-week game against Super Rugby's Auckland Blues.

Eight members of the squad remain in France ahead of Saturday's Top 14 final between Toulon and Castres and will join the rest of the squad early next week.

"We expect to find some new talent. We have four games so have brought 35 players. It is a big squad," Saint Andre said.

"It will be a big test for this team, physically and mentally. It will be interesting to see how the guys react with high intensity.

"We only have one more tour, to Australia next year. The World Cup (in England) is already a big focus for the French team."

Thierry Dusatoir's team were in top form during internationals last November and were hot favourites for this year's Six Nations title but picked up the wooden spoon, winning just one game.

"After November, we were favourites for the Six Nations and we finish at the bottom. I hope we will compete very well against the All Blacks," Saint Andre said.

Such enigmatic performances have typically led to fans and both local and international media to write off the French, who consistently confound those expectations, particularly against New Zealand.

None more so than in 1994, when the visitors lost provincial matches only to win the Test series 2-0 with the second match capped by Jean-Luc Sadourny's "try from the end of the world", that had been sparked by Saint Andre deep inside his own half.

"We are not favourites, but we like this. We know that the All Blacks have not lost at this stadium (Eden Park) since 1994 so we know that it will be a very tough confrontation.

"We have to show a lot of character and we need to enjoy ourselves. We need to play rugby and not just be in front of the All Blacks."

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