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All Blacks unchanged for second France Test

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has kept the same starting line up for this week

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Article Published: Thursday 13 June 2013|

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named an unchanged starting lineup for this weekend's second Test match against France despite several players not impressing in the first clash.

The All Blacks won the first of three Test matches this month 23-13.

Hansen has made three changes on the bench, where Andrew Hore replaces Keven Mealamu as reserve hooker, prop Tony Woodcock replaces Ben Afeaki and scrumhalf Piri Weepu takes over from Tawera Kerr-Barlow after missing the first test with concussion.

Captain Keiran Read will make his 50th test appearance and Hore will make his 75th if he takes the field at Christchurch's Rugby Park.

Hansen acknowledged on Thursday that New Zealand had to improve substantially on its lackluster first test effort, but warned that France would also improve.

Saturday's match will be the All Blacks' 500th test and Hansen hopes that after a week of hard work his team will produce a performance to be proud of.

France outplayed New Zealand in several areas of the first test, led early and was unlucky to lose.

The visitors were clearly superior in terms of physical effort and the breakdown, causing problems for the All Blacks scrum before their effectiveness was dulled by a series of penalties.

France also showed an ability to break the All Blacks' defensive line in midfield.

"Clearly, there has also been a lot of work done on how we are going to approach the breakdown and I'm sure we will see an improvement there," Hansen said.

"Overall, we have had a good week's preparation. It's now about putting that preparation and hard work into a performance on the track that we can all be proud of.

"The French, however, may have their own ideas about that and one pleasing aspect from last week's test is that we have been left with no uncertainty just how tough this weekend's test will be. They have laid down the challenge to us that we will have to be at our very best to beat them."

France is likely to name a considerably stronger lineup for the second test. Several of its key players were unavailable for last weekend's match at Eden Park because they had been involved in the French Top 14 club final and only arrived in New Zealand a few days before the test.

A second-string French team impressively beat the Blues Super Rugby team 38-15 in Auckland on Tuesday and several members of that side have also put forward cases for selection.

Asked what areas of his game had to improve, Cruden said "mainly just the kicking.

"The all-round kicking, goalkicking, tactical kicking. It just wasn't good enough, so that really has to step up if I get the opportunity this weekend."

All Blacks backline coach Ian Foster said he had confidence in Cruden's ability to step up on Saturday and steer the New Zealand backline.

"He'll be better because he knows more. The key thing is we get a lot of other people around him knowing what they are doing as well.

"There were a few nerves in everyone. We were playing France, they are a pretty strong unit, we're trying a few different things out, so there's probably a lot going on in his head.

New Zealand and France have met 52 times in test matches, of which New Zealand has won 39 and France 12 with one draw. The teams last played in Christchurch in 2003 when New Zealand won 31-23.

New Zealand

Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett.

Replacments : Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Rene Ranger.

 
 
 
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