Two titans of the global game will face off at the Stade de France
When France take on the All Blacks on Friday 8 September for the first game of the Rugby World Cup 2023, fans’ eyes will be glued to what has become one of the most enticing fixtures in world rugby.
While historically New Zealand dominate the clash, having won 48 of the 62 meetings of the sides, France have claimed two monumental wins at World Cups.
They knocked the three-time world champions out at the 1999 and 2007 tournaments at the semi-final and quarter-final stages respectively.
The most recent meeting of the two teams was during the autumn of 2021, with France running away 40-25 victors on that occasion to end a 14-game losing streak against their southern hemisphere rivals that stretched back to 2009.
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Les Bleus have won just one test series against the All Blacks in their history, becoming the first northern hemisphere side to win a Test series in New Zealand with a 2-0 victory in 1994.
But when the two sides met in the final of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, it was the All Blacks who would emerge with a narrow 8-7 victory to get their hands on the Webb Ellis Trophy for a second time.
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Form of France and New Zealand
As opening fixtures at Rugby World Cups go, it doesn’t get much bigger than this.
France had a perfect Test year in 2022, winning all ten of their fixtures and securing a Grand Slam in the 2022 Six Nations along the way.
And while New Zealand’s fortunes last year were somewhat more mixed, they still won the 2022 Rugby Championship – as well as going unbeaten in the Autumn Nations Series, drawing 25-25 with England and securing wins against Japan, Wales and Scotland.
The French will not be repeating their Grand Slam feat this year after Ireland defeated them 32-19 in Dublin in Round Two of the Six Nations earlier this month, but still sit second in the world rankings and continue to play some scintillating rugby.
The future of Ian Foster as head coach of the national side remains in doubt with Crusaders linchpin Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson waiting in the wings and the All Blacks will be striving to perform much better than their quarter-final exit in the 2007 edition of the tournament, the last time it was staged in France.
Rugby World Cup 2007
The sixth instalment of the Rugby World Cup was hosted by France, with four games played in Wales and two in Scotland.
South Africa defeated then-holders England 15-9 in the final, but this was just part of the story.
France and New Zealand had met in the quarter-finals, with Les Bleus emerging 20-18 winners amid some controversial refereeing decisions, including a French try that stood despite what appeared to be a forward pass in the build-up.
In the opening match of the tournament at Parc de Princes, France had fallen 17-12 to Argentina in a major World Cup upset.
The Pumas would return to haunt the French in the bronze medal match six weeks later, when they took third place away from the hosts in a convincing 34-10 win off the back of a 21-point performance from inside centre Felipe Contepomi that included two tries.
France will be looking to shake off the ghosts of their 2007 opening match blunder and get the 2023 campaign underway with a win against their southern hemisphere rivals.
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