Good old French team is back, says New Zealand coach Steve Hansen after victory

All Blacks win 24-19 on Saturday in their final test of the year at the Stade de France but were put under pressure by Les Bleus

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 November, 2016, 11:40am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 November, 2016, 11:42am

France appeared to have rediscovered the joie de vivre of rugby that had made them such a dangerous and inspirational team in the past, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said on Saturday.

The All Blacks got away with a 24-19 win in their final test of the year at the Stade de France, but were put under pressure by Les Bleus, who looked nothing like the side humiliated 62-13 in the World Cup quarter-finals in the previous encounter between the two sides.

“Just watching them over the last few weeks... they build a game they want to play,” Hansen said. “They have been getting better and better under the new regime, they are going back to a style of rugby that suits them.”

France played free-flowing rugby and created countless try scoring chances, that were too often ruined by some poor handling with their only reward a Louis Picamoles try following a superb behind the back pass from scrum half Baptiste Serin.

Watch: France v New Zealand highlights

“It felt like the old French rugby team,” added Hansen, who also praised the performance of his “young team”.

“We learn, we are a young group,” he said, remarking that New Zealand had lost several key players after the World Cup.

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France are learning, too, and quite fast, under coach Guy Noves who is intent on turning the team into an attack-minded side, in sharp contrast with the physical rugby his predecessor Philippe Saint-Andre had Les Bleus play for four years.

“I have the feeling we were much better physically than against Australia last weekend,” Noves said, referring to last Saturday’s 25-23 defeat against Australia.

“I am very proud tonight. New Zealand were superior but they did not have it easy. We crushed them at times.

“We have a team with a lot of self-belief, a team who learn and play a rugby that they like.

“We lost several balls in the last metres after some fine moves and the next step will be to convert those opportunities we had. There will be brighter days.”

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France next travel to Twickenham for their Six Nations opener on February 4 against England, who have won all 12 games so far this year under coach Eddie Jones and have a 13-match winning streak overall after beating Argentina 27-14 on Saturday.

“It’s going to be a great Six Nations,” said Hansen, whose team lost to Ireland for the first time in Chicago, before taking their revenge in Dublin last week and next meet the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand in June.