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Most experienced All Black team to play France

Corey Jane has been named on the wing despite missing most of this year due to injury

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Article Published: Thursday 7 November 2013

New Zealand Rugby head coach Steve Hansen has named the most experienced team in All Blacks' history to face France in Paris this weekend.

Hansen's starting XV announced Thursday has 853 caps, with a further 112 available on the bench for a combined record of 965, showing that the world champions are not taking the mercurial French lightly.

"France are one of our great rugby foes and there is a rich history of matches between our two countries, so we are certainly looking forward to this weekend," Hansen said.

France have won only one of eight matches this season while New Zealand have triumphed in every one of the 11 tests they have played in 2013.

But Hansen does not believe that statistic will have any bearing on a clash between two sides often closely matched.

And he is certainly not expecting Les Bleus to be lacking in any self-belief.

"If they were any other team in the world, I would say they would (lack confidence)," he said.

"That's the beauty of the French people, the 'c'est la vie', they don't live in the past, they live for today.

"They know they can play rugby, they just have to get the recipe right on the day and when they do, they are a very dangerous rugby side."

With Hansen's team bidding to become the first All Blacks' side ever to finish the year with a 100 percent win record, the coach ditched the experimental line-up that defeated Japan 54-6 in Tokyo last week.

Eight first-choice All Blacks - including stalwarts such as Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Ma'a Nonu - sat out the Japan game and travelled straight to France for the European leg of the tour, which also includes tests against England and Ireland.

"In the end it was a pretty easy team to pick," added Hansen. "It's pretty consistent with what we've been running with most of the year."

Winger Julian Savea is absent due to a flu virus, with Cory Jane returning from a hamstring injury to take his place alongside fellow wing Charles Piutau.

Hansen said Piutau, the rookie among the starting 15 with just eight caps, had been in "electric" form and deserved his spot.

"He's taken off, his game against Australia was right up there," said the coach of a player more used to operating at full-back.

"He looked comfortable, he seemed natural, he's got a lot of confidence.

"He repeated that performance against Japan and we'd expect him to do that again Saturday."

Piutau's form on the wing is one reason Ben Smith has been retained alongside Nonu at centre.

Although New Zealand beat France three times in June, Nonu believes he and Smith need to raise their game against France's midfield pairing of Florian Fritz and Wesley Fofana.

"I thought they probably outplayed us in June in terms of their defence and attack," said Nonu, a 30-year-old veteran of 85 caps and 125 points.

"They're pretty big, solid guys, we just have to make our tackles more. Defensively they're pretty sound, they've got a good blitz defence and like to push a lot.

"They're not afraid to run straight (at you) so it will be a big battle."

Skipper Richie McCaw returns to his favoured number seven position after being played at eight in Tokyo, while star fly-half Dan Carter will move to 99 Tests at the Stade de France.

New Zealand

Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Charles Piutau; Dan Carter, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Ryan Crotty.

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