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France don't fear All Blacks' challenge

International Sports

France ready for All Blacks France ready for All Blacks France's forwards are counting down the days until they face world champions New Zealand in the quarter-finals on Saturday and licking their lips in anticipation of the physical confrontation to come.

Philippe Saint-Andre's team go into the match at the Millennium Stadium with their early momentum checked by a 24-9 defeat by Ireland in their last Pool D match, but an all-or-nothing encounter with Steve Hansen's side has already set the adrenaline flowing in the French camp.

As ever, the match will be preceded by the All Blacks' iconic haka, which Les Bleus are more than happy to feed off to ensure they are in the right frame of mind for another chapter of one of rugby's most enduring rivalries.

"Such moments are unique, and you remember them forever. The haka is a source of motivation for them, but also for the opponents," prop Nicolas Mas said.

His fellow front-rower Benjamin Kayser agreed. "We would rather focus on the 80 minutes that will come after it, but the haka is an invitation to join the fight," he said. "If we want to play a great match, we'll have to be tough. I'm sure that we are all ready to fight until the end."

When the sides faced off on the field before the World Cup final in Auckland four years ago, France captain Thierry Dusautoir led his teammates in a united arrowhead-shaped response to New Zealand's haka; when they met in the 2007 tournament in Cardiff, the French players removed their tracksuits to reveal T-shirts variously coloured blue, white or red. They then lined up in formation to embody a French tricolor as they confronted the All Blacks (pictured).

On both occasions their ploys helped France rise to the occasion; while they lost narrowly at the ultimate stage last time round, in 2007 they claimed a 20-18 quarter-final victory in the Millennium Stadium.

The enormity of Saturday's match has certainly not been lost on France's players, who know they cannot produce any less than their best form if they are to progress to the semi-finals.

"This will be a very big challenge," Mas added. "There are only a few such games in a player's career and we worked hard for this. Each match could be the last one, but this one even more. It's crucial to remain upbeat."

"We will have to make sure we don't watch them play. When they're at their best, they are capable of extraordinary things. But if we manage to make them start to doubt, then we'll have a chance."

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