A review of the New Zealand v France 2015 World Cup quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium
New Zealand booked a World Cup semi-final against South Africa with a nine-try demolition of France at the Millennium Stadium. Julian Savea scored a hat-trick as the French had no answers to a lethal All Blacks attack that had power, pace and panache. The gaps in France’s defence did not help their cause as they fell to record, and frankly embarrassing, defeat by New Zealand. Little wonder that Philippe Saint-André’s appearance on the big screen was met with a chorus of boos.
Speed of thought – The All Blacks operate at a higher pace than any other team. They haven’t been as sharp as expected through the pool stages – knock-ons here and poor kicks there – but it all clicked against France. Brodie Retallick scored a try from a chargedown, Ben Smith won a high ball when competing with France’s giant No 8 Louis Picamoles, Ma’a Nonu punched holes throughout and kicked accurately. They make the right decisions at the right time 99% of the time, and execute difficult skills at speed. France couldn’t react quick enough, or with the necessary commitment, in defence to contain them.
Offloads – Dan Carter produced a sublime pass out of the tackle for Julian Savea’s first try while props Joe Moody and Charlie Faumuina also delivered try-scoring offloads. Skills are sharp from one to 15.
Julian Savea – The New Zealand wing knocked over three people – Noa Nakaitaci, Scott Spedding and Rabah Slimani – en route to his second try. In the second half, when running out from his own 22, he put Remi Tales on his backside. And he is this tournament’s top try-scorer to date. At full pelt, he is nigh-on unstoppable.
Haka response – In 2007 we had the face-off, in 2011 we had the arrowhead and in 2015 we had… nothing. France simply stood on the ten-metre line as New Zealand performed the haka. A shame – we were hoping for a little more drama. It was much the same during the match itself.
Breakdown discipline – Player safety has been a big focus at this World Cup, as it should be. Referees have clamped down on the neck roll, it’s the same with dangerous tackles – but one area that seems to be glossed over is ruck entry. Too often in this game players flew into rucks, sometimes straight over the top of the players on the floor, and made no effort to keep their feet. This is extremely dangerous and the sooner it’s more regularly penalised, the better.
Piri Weepu’s outfit – The 2011 World Cup winner and former All Blacks scrum-half was part of the in-stadium punditry team – and did his best impression of a human disco ball. Black, sparkly tops are common sights on nights out in Cardiff… on women. In the style stakes, his French counterpart Olivier Magne was a clear winner. Though that was the only contest France won all night.
62 – A record number of points scored by a team in a RWC knockout game. Before this, no team had scored more than 50 points.
746 – The number of metres made by New Zealand, nearly twice that of France (388) and including 142 from Julian Savea.
23 – The number of tackles missed by France while New Zealand missed 20.
New Zealand: B Smith; N Milner-Skudder (B Barrett ht), C Smith (SB Williams 52), M Nonu, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith (T Kerr-Barlow 65); W Crockett (J Moody 28), D Coles (K Mealamu 61), O Franks (C Faumuina 52), B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino (V Vito 65), R McCaw (capt, S Cane 69), K Read.
Tries (9): Retallick, Milner-Skudder, Savea 3, Kaino, Read, Kerr-Barlow 2. Cons: Carter 7. Pen: Carter.
France: S Spedding; N Nakaitaci, A Dumoulin (M Bastareaud 61), W Fofana, B Dulin; F Michalak (R Tales 12), M Parra (R Kockott 69); E Ben Arous (V Debaty 61), G Guirado (D Szarzewski 57), R Slimani, P Papé (Y Nyanga 48), Y Maestri, T Dusautoir (capt), B le Roux, L Picamoles (D Chouly 72).
Try: Picamoles. Con: Parra. Pens: Spedding, Parra.
Yellow card: Picamoles (47).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Man of the Match: Julian Savea