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Steve Hansen goes on offensive ahead of meeting with France

Published 15/10/2015

New Zealand boss Steve Hansen, pictured, might have strained relations with France ahead of Saturday's World Cup quarter-final
New Zealand boss Steve Hansen, pictured, might have strained relations with France ahead of Saturday's World Cup quarter-final

Steve Hansen lit the diplomatic touch paper ahead of New Zealand's World Cup quarter-final with France, dredging up the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.

All Blacks boss Hansen branded France's Top 14 league "dour", before warning New Zealand that Philippe Saint-Andre's men could still rediscover their missing "flair and physicality".

Hansen believes France will conjure their counter-attacking best against defending champions New Zealand, with the All Blacks wary of any repeat of their 20-18 last-eight defeat in 2007.

New Zealand will face France in Cardiff again on Saturday night, eight years after that galling exit, with Hansen warning his side not to take Les Bleus lightly.

"There's been a great relationship between the two countries for a long time," said Hansen.

"And apart from the Rainbow Warrior we've probably been on the same page for most of the time.

"But we've had similar perspectives on a rugby front.

"Their league, the Super 14, I'm not sure what it's called - oh, the Top 14.

"That's become quite a dour competition with a lot of physicality, and I know they're trying to recapture that flair.

"We'll be expecting them to come out with flair and physicality at the weekend.

"The relationship has been great.

"Sometimes you do wonder who has turned up.

"But they always turn up for the big occasions and they'll do that this weekend."

Hansen appeared to immediately regret his flippant comment about the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace protest ship that two French special forces operatives sunk in Auckland in 1985.

The All Blacks boss quickly reverted to safer ground when backing New Zealand to shake off a malaise-filled pool stage once knock-out rugby comes calling.

"It's the time of the tournament where the big boys have to stand up or go home," said Hansen.

"I'm very happy with where we're at. Our attitude has been one of excitement.

"We know what's on the line. You don't have to be a rocket scientist do you.

"Without being disrespect in the pool rounds, it's not the same edge, it's not the same edge when you're playing Namibia.

"You know you're going to win the match.

"The edge is there this week.

"You can get your knife and fork out and eat it."

France talisman Thierry Dusautoir set a World Cup record 38 tackles in that 2007 quarter-final victory, and Hansen knows the combative flanker will have a big influence again this weekend.

Saint-Andre has dropped under-performing juggernaut centre Mathieu Bastareaud in favour of Alexandre Dumoulin to partner Wesley Fofana in midfield.

Hansen believes Dumoulin will broaden France's horizons on Saturday.

"Thierry Dusautoir is one of the great players of all time," said Hansen.

"If it wasn't for a certain Richie McCaw running around during that same period Dusautoir would be seen as the guy who had played the best rugby in that position over a long time.

"He's calculated, cool under pressure, smart rugby brain and he's a good man, good character, plays the game in the right spirit.

"And he's a great ambassador for French rugby.

"Wesley Fofana is one of their flair guys. You wouldn't want to give him much room. He'll skin you as soon as look at you.

"But they've all got the ability to turn nothing into something.

"Bastareaud is a big man, there aren't many centres that big, not even I was, except maybe a couple of weeks ago!

"His style is what he brings he's very confrontational, carries the ball up and gives them go-forward.

"They're going to look to do something subtly different with the new guy.

"He'll bring a different challenge and we have to respect that."

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