New Zealand captain Richie McCaw aware of threat of Thierry Dusautoir
Richie McCaw has hounded the world's best players for 14 dogmatic years, but New Zealand's World Cup-winning captain has finally admitted he knows how that feels.
For almost a generation few have been able to reach the greatness touched by the near-automaton openside - but along the way, McCaw has now revealed his French counterpart has kept him company.
The very best of back-rowers lurk in the shadows, shade their foes and pounce to poach possession, before retreating once more.
McCaw will pit his brand of back-row skulduggery against the opponent he rates above all others in Saturday's quarter-final against France, well aware Thierry Dusautoir has lost none of his own tricks.
"Over the years I've played him a few times and you always know he's there," said McCaw of Dusautoir.
"You will have seen that last week in the Irish game.
"He was pretty big defensively and in the breakdown area."
Dusautoir hounded New Zealand into submission almost on his own in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final in Cadiff, producing a tournament-record 38 tackles in a totemic showing.
France prevailed 20-18 to shock the hot favourites, McCaw and company stunned by their omission.
While beating France 8-7 in the 2011 World Cup final will have taken the edge off that 2007 slump, the Kiwis have long memories and even higher standards.
New Zealand would flatly deny any revenge mission this weekend, but McCaw admitted returning to Cardiff for another quarter-final, eight years on, against the same opponents, certainly throws up old wounds.
"It's exciting to be back here, when we came over we knew we'd be here for the quarter-final if we qualified," said McCaw.
"If we are going to reflect back eight years ago, which is a long time, it was a disappointing day but then it has perhaps shaped what has happened in the eight years since.
"Those days are the ones you learn a few lessons from. I am grateful we get another opportunity to be in the quarter-final of a World Cup. It shows how tough quarter-finals are and that's the way it should be."
France were forced to deny reports their players had launched a revolt against head coach Philippe Saint-Andre ahead of Saturday's last-eight battle.
All Blacks assistant boss Ian Foster admitted warning the squad not to expect anything other than a focused and fiery France on Saturday night.
"We take no notice of it," said Foster.
"We're expecting a French team very fired up to be at Cardiff.
"It's a goal of theirs that they've shown before, that they can rise for a big occasion, and we're expecting the best of them.
"That has been the focus of our preparation all week."