SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: France can play better than New Zealand win

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: France’s win over New Zealand suggested that conditions are going to have a big impact – and the hosts can play far BETTER than what they showed

  • France beat New Zealand 27-13 to kick off the Rugby World Cup on Friday night
  • The two favourites went head-to-head and played good ruby but nerves showed
  • Rugby World Cup 2023: Click here for Mail Sport’s latest coverage from France
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

What Friday night’s World Cup opener showed me is that conditions are going to have a big impact on the early stages of this tournament.

I was very surprised by how much France kicked, especially given what we’ve seen from them in the last few years.

When they moved the ball in the second half they looked far more dangerous – and winning was the most important thing.

The heat was a big factor. Temperatures were still very high even with kick-off past 9pm in Paris. You could see the shirts of both teams soaked in sweat and players tired quickly.

The first half started in spectacular fashion with Rieko Ioane’s clean line break and Beauden Barrett’s pinpoint cross-kick to Mark Telea.

Conditions played a big factor in France’s win over New Zealand, even with the late kick-off

France kicked a lot in the first half, but had more success moving the ball quickly in the second

They can play better than they showed on Friday, a concern for the rest of the competition

That was the All Blacks at their clinical best. After that, there were lots of errors from both sides. 

The opening game had been built up so much by so many people that I think nerves played a part.

France weren’t helped by losing key forward Julien Marchand. But I don’t think Shuan Edwards would have been happy with their defence. 

France kicked far more than I was expecting. It felt like Fabien Galthie’s side had caught the same disease which afflicted England last month!

New Zealand played more of the rugby. Everyone talked about Antoine Dupont, but his opposite number Aaron Smith was outstanding.

Mark Telea scored twice and was involved in some brilliant rugby but France did not let up

The scrum-half was involved again for Telea’s second try. It was brilliant rugby, New Zealand having the confidence to play from their own half and chipping ahead to race clear.

France hit straight back through Damian Penaud and it was brilliant work from Matthieu Jalibert – the way he got on the outside of Richie Mo’unga was superb.

Will Jordan’s card really hurt New Zealand. It was silly from Jordan. I don’t know why players compete in the air like that as it is so risky.

For the All Blacks, it proved costly. France won comfortably and what should concern their rivals is they can play far better than they showed in Paris.

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