France Back Row Juilen Bonnaire has begun the war of words ahead of their crucial Pool A clash against New Zealand on Saturday, claiming the All Blacks are fearful of France’s unpredictability.
The All Blacks have lost to France twice in the knockout stages of the World Cup, losing a dramatic semi-final in 1999 to Les Blues before a controversial quarter-final clash in 2007 ended in defeat for Graham Henry’s side once more.
New Zealand have beaten France at the World Cup twice as well, defeating their fierce rivals in the 1987 final as well in 2003 during the group stages.
Bonnaire appeared keen to start the psychological warfare ahead of the game on Saturday, attempting to ratchet up the pressure on the home side and plant a seed of doubt in their minds.
“The All Blacks know we are unpredictable, both in a good and a bad way actually. We can either fail or pull it off – and that is what they fear,” he said.
“Clearly there are high expectations from a whole nation who support them fully – perhaps too much even. We experienced that ourselves in 2007 in France.”
Much of the attention ahead of the game has focused on a so called second string team selected to wear the France Rugby Shirts to take on the All Blacks.
Marc Lièvremont’s team selection drew criticism earlier this week with local media claiming the head coach had deliberately names a weakened side in order to take advantage of Ireland’s shock victory over Australia and avoid all three Southern Hemisphere teams in the knockout stages of the tournament.
“Controversy is part of the deal. The media are looking to get their hands on anything. It doesn’t affect me. It’s up to us to prove them wrong on the field.”