All Blacks face under-strength first test French team

Author
NZ Herald Staff,
Section
Rugby,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 16 May 2018, 3:42PM
Influential Montpellier No 8 Louis Picamoles has been ruled out of the tour to New Zealand. (Photo /Getty)
Influential Montpellier No 8 Louis Picamoles has been ruled out of the tour to New Zealand. (Photo /Getty)

France will field an under-strength team for the first test against the All Blacks next month.

Up to seven or eight first-choice players are likely to miss the opening tour match because of the French Top14 final the week before the Eden Park test.

French radio journalist Laurent Depret told Radio Sport it was the same problem faced by French sides touring here at this time of the year.

''The first test team will be mixed with seven or eight players from the French Barbarians and the majority from teams, not in the Top14 final.''

Montpellier and Racing92 are likely to contest the final with their players joining the tour late.

New French coach Jacques Brunel had 11 players from the two clubs in his Six Nations squad this year.

Influential Montpellier No 8 Louis Picamoles has been ruled out of the tour as he will have leg surgery straight after the final.

''You can copy and paste what happened in 2009 when France fielded an under-strength first test team in Dunedin.''

That resulted in a shock 27-22 win to France with the All Blacks squaring the two-test series in Wellington with a hard-fight 14-10 win.

Depret said the All Blacks were ''huge favourites'' to win the three-test series.

''I am not telling you we are going to beat you but I don't think France will disappoint.''

Under Brunel, France had an encouraging Six Nations campaign, beating Ireland, England and Italy and losing narrowly to Wales and Scotland.

''The team was fantastic, smiling faces, confident and happy. Something is happening,'' said Depret.

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