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RUGBY

France humbled by rampant All Blacks

The All Blacks celebrated their 500th Test with a thumping 30-0 win over old rivals France which secured victory in their three-game series on Saturday.

France humbled by rampant All Blacks
The All Blacks perform the Haka. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP

An astute kicking game laid the groundwork and the All Blacks powered home after an early try to Julian Savea and two crowd-pleasing scores in the second half from Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett.

New Zealand's 378th victory in 500 internationals, which makes them one of the most successful teams in all sports, follows last week's 23-13 win in Auckland and gives them an unassailable 2-0 lead with a game to spare.

"I'm extremely happy," said All Blacks captain Kieran Read. "The effort we put in in defence really showed the character we have got. It's not easy on a (wet) night like this and the boys really stepped up."

The home team led 10-0 at half-time and added 20 points in the second period, while France, who ran New Zealand close last week, finished scoreless against them for the first time.

"Unfortunately we couldn't score any points tonight. They played very well with great defence," said French skipper Thierry Dusautoir.

"We're hoping to do the maximum to fight back in order to win that one Test. There's one Test left so we're going to do the maximum to win."

The renowned flair of the French made them a threat when they had an opportunity to run with the ball, but their opportunities were few as they were continually forced into a defensive game by an All Blacks aerial bombardment.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had demanded an improvement on the stumbling first Test win in Auckland a week ago, and the team took notice.

Before a capacity crowd of 21,000 who braved chilly, wet conditions, they were a far more settled unit the second time around against their 2011 World Cup final opponents.

Read and Liam Messam lead an effective nullifying of the French strength at the breakdown, and the scrum held its own despite the addition of Nicolas Mas into the French front row.

But it was the kicking game, so wayward a week ago, that produced the result as France were kept pinned deep in their own half.

Their best opportunity to breach the All Blacks defence came early in the second half when a series of pick-and-goes, and half-breaks by Wesley Fofana and Yohann Huget, took them through 17 phases inside the All Blacks 22.

However, when the move eventually broke down, the All Blacks showed their game was not all about kicking and triggered a length-of-the-field counter-attack that ended with a try to Ben Smith under the posts.

But it was their kicking that engineered their first try, in the third minute of the game when they drilled France into a corner.

Sam Whitelock stole the defensive lineout from debutant Bernard le Roux and a delicately weighted grubber kick from centre Ma'a Nonu allowed Savea to scamper over for the try.

Despite a superior territory advantage the All Blacks had to wait 15 minutes, and at a rare moment when they were inside their own 22, to set up their next points.

A Frederic Michalak penalty attempt bounced off the upright into the arms of Read, playing his 50th Test, and the All Blacks captain swatted aside tacklers in a 50-metre run upfield.

When he was lowered, a Cruden kick took the All Blacks up to the line where the desperately defending French conceded a penalty which the flyhalf converted into three points.

For the rest of the half, the defending French, led by the hard-hitting Dusautoir, the "the Dark Destroyer", kept the All Blacks at bay.

The big French push at the start of the second half came unstuck when out of frustration at not being able to breach the All Blacks defence they reverted to a drop-goal attempt, only for Sam Cane to charge down Michalak's kick.

The All Blacks recovered the ball with Savea leading the break down-field and sending Ben Smith over for the try.

Cruden added two further penalties before the All Blacks' final try, another breakout effort from their own line started by Rene Ranger and finished under the posts by replacement Beauden Barrett after a delicious offload from Cruden.

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RUGBY

French rugby mourns death of fourth young player in months

French rugby was left mourning the death of a 23-year-old student on Monday, the fourth young player to have died in eight months.

French rugby mourns death of fourth young player in months
Photo: AFP

Nathan Soyeux, who was not registered with the French rugby federation (FFR), passed away in Dijon on Sunday, having been admitted to hospital after an adverse reaction to a tackle in a match at a tournament for engineering schools on November 24.

Soyeux sustained the blow whilst being tackled by an opponent and was at first able to sit up before complaining of nausea and then losing consciousness.

Taken to Dijon hospital, the player was put in an induced coma for two weeks, but his health deteriorated following efforts to bring him around, according to his engineering school, Esirem.

Soyeux becomes the fourth young French player since May to die after being injured during a match.

In December, Stade Francais youth flanker Nicolas Chauvin, 18, died after breaking his neck. In August Louis Fajfrowski, 21, died following a heavy tackle playing for Aurillac and in May 17-year-old Adrien Descrulhes passed away a day after receiving a blow to the head playing for amateur club Billom.

Chauvin's death prompted France's Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu to call on rugby authorities to make the game safer, with the former Olympic swimmer saying she would meet FFR president Bernard Laporte to discuss ways of preventing more deaths.

The FFR confirmed in December it will put together a global forum alongside World Rugby, the sport's governing body, to discuss player health and the evolution of the game's laws in March 2019 in France.

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