AB's revisit '07 in rehearsal
Christchurch - The All Blacks wound the clock back four years Tuesday, re-creating scenes from their last World Cup debacle as they stepped up preparations for a showdown with France on Saturday.
The focus was on targetting the French strengths and shutting down Morgan Parra the scrum-half who has been surprisingly selected to replace Francois Trinh-Duc at fly-half.
The All Blacks have a score to settle with France who tipped them out of the quarter-finals 20-18 at Cardiff in 2007 and there's grim resolve not to let that happen again.
Training in secret at a rugby field surrounded by a high fence and with security guards posted outside, the All Blacks ran through moves they believe France will use and practised how to counter them.
For many of the survivors of the failed '07 campaign it was the first time they had revisited that game as they went over what went wrong in Cardiff and worked on not making the same mistakes again.
"We know we're going into a big battle," said scrum-half Andy Ellis at the end of training.
France were scratchy in their two wins so far in New Zealand against Japan and Canada but the All Blacks were bracing for an intense clash, particularly in the forwards.
"It's going to be physical, a lot of intensity, a team like France play with a lot of passion and emotion," said Ellis.
"Their style of play maybe slightly different to what we're used to and we're adapating to that. We ran some of what we think they are going to bring to us. We ran it out there, it is slightly different.
"Part of the training was expect the unexpected. They're very skilful players, jinky steps, a lot of offloads and they're all the stuff we practised in training."
There was also a concentration on the skills Parra would bring to the pivotal number 10 slot, a position he has not played in for nearly three years.
"I won't let too much of that out, but (Parra is) very skilful, a very good pass as well."
Hooker Keven Mealamu, who like Ellis did not take the field for the last World Cup match against France, said memories of the loss had been put out of mind for four years until now.
"For a lot of us pretty much haven't spoken about it since. But for us to move foward it's good to see where we went wrong and how we can improve. We went through scenarios -- this is actually what happened out there," he said.
"To actually go through it and say this is exactly what happened and this is how we could have approached it better and could have fixed it out there we'll be better for the experiences."
The All Blacks have been training in Christchurch since Saturday while on a goodwill tour to the earthquake-stricken city which had to give up the seven World Cup matches.
The team will return to Auckland on Wednesday and the squad to play France will be named the following day.
Both sides have a maximum 10 points from winning their first two games and the winner on Saturday is virtually assured of topping Pool A.