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France to face All Blacks in 'biggest match of lives'

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France to face All Blacks in 'biggest match of lives'
08:43 CEST+02:00
France have been left facing an almighty task to reach the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup after defeat to Ireland meant they will face the mighty All Blacks in the quarters. But they do have omens on their side.

If there is one French expression the All Blacks do not want to hear next weekend it's "deja vu" as they prepare for another World Cup quarter-final against France at Millennium Stadium.

The All Blacks are still haunted by the nightmare of their ill-fated 2007 campaign when they started as hot favourites only to be beaten by France in the quarter-finals at Wales flagship arena.

The luck of the draw has the All Blacks, as winners of Pool C matched, against the runners up from Pool D.

Ireland ensured it was not them when they beat France 24-9 in an intensely bruising clash on Sunday.

France appeared shocked by the defeat in the final Pool D game and its consequences.

"We will talk about the things that didn't work, especially the rucks which were catastrophic, and concentrate on the (next) match," said scrum half Sebastien Tillous-Borde.

"We are up now against the beast, the best country in the world," added lock Yoann Maestri.

"We have our backs to the wall and we will have to see how we pick ourselves up. For my generation this will be the biggest match of our lives.

"France captain Thierry Dusautoir will now get a chance to repeat his finest performance when they take on defending champions New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.

The 33-year-old flanker put in a massive 38 tackles against the All Blacks at the same stage and the same Millennium Stadium venue in 2007 to help knock out the favourites 20-18.

As a comparison, New Zealand as a team only put in 36 tackles in a huge French defensive effort.

He also put in a man-of-the-match performance against the All Blacks in France's courageous 8-7 loss in the 2011 final on their opponents home turf.

"Next week there is a big challenge waiting for us," he said of the quarter final after his side had suffered their first defeat of the tournament a 24-9 loss to Six Nations champions Ireland to consign them to the runners-up spot in Pool D.

"But we are going to look at what was not 100 percent today and go into the next match with a lot of appetite."

"Each match is different, and this team has its own history. There's no need to refer back to something from eight years ago," he said.

"The essential thing now is to overcome the disappointment and rest up because we have the match in six days. We need to recharge mentally and physically.

"Everything remains possible, we'll stay focused on ourselves."

After the battering that Ireland's Jamie Heaslip described as "a dogfight, at times a real slugfest" France coach Philippe Saint-Andre lacked conviction as he looked towards the date with the All Blacks.

"We need to rehabilitate, analyse the game, all the while knowing that we're still in it," he said before listing a lack of clean ball in the second half, multiple errors on attack and too many penalties as areas to be addressed.

"New Zealand are favourites, but in a game of rugby you never know. It's important for us to stick together.

"We didn't perform well today and we now go away to get ready for a huge, huge, huge game against the All Blacks."

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