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All Blacks Eye Marseille For Defining Test

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Fuseworks Media
All Blacks Eye Marseille For Defining Test

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

London, Nov 22 NZPA - Nothing less than victory will be acceptable for the All Blacks as they eagerly cast their minds ahead to Marseille and the defining match of their rugby tour.

After dispatching England 19-6 at Twickenham, the All Blacks switched focus to Stade Velodrome next Sunday (NZT) as they chase yet another unbeaten November.

At their only previous test against France in Marseille, the hosts stormed home for a 42-33 win in 2000.

The French test has long been discussed as the tour 'grand final', against a side who beat them in Dunedin in June and eliminated them from the 2007 World Cup.

After a shaky test season which included four defeats and the annoying trait of being unable to decisively put away Wales, Italy and England, there is plenty riding on it.

"Next week's going to be massive. Marseille is going to be pretty hostile, it's going to be a big week and the coaches have got a massive task to pick a team that'll hopefully do the business against them," fullback Mils Muliaina said.

"We were disappointed early in the season with the way we played against them, now it's an opportunity for us to really get our game right.

"We've gone undefeated so far and this is the big one. With all due respect to the Barbarians, this is a massive test and we're going to throw everything at this French team.

"We've come a little bit unstuck with the French before so we're going to go out there and try to do it a lot better than what we did (against England). Hopefully that'll get us home."

The All Blacks coaches -- who reported no major injury concerns -- have said they would pick their strongest team for France, which could mean either two or three changes from Twickenham.

Prop Neemia Tialata will likely return for Owen Franks and winger Cory Jane for Zac Guildford, despite the 20-year-old's impressive efforts in his second test which earned more plaudits from the coaches.

Lock Tom Donnelly looks to have nailed down the role alongside Brad Thorn while it's another tight call between Adam Thomson and Jerome Kaino at No 6.

Thomson started against England and was a big presence at the breakdown alongside captain Richie McCaw, but Kaino, who played the final 20 minutes, may be preferred against France for his physical presence.

"I'm not sure if I'll be playing or not. I'd love to get out there and play the French on their home soil and have some fonder memories (than June)," Thomson said.

"The French are playing really well and we've been slowly building. It's our last big one of the year and the guys are excited and we want to put a performance in so we can hit the off-season feeling good."

France have form on the board and are formidable in the rugby-mad south, as the Springboks will attest when a brutal forward display saw the hosts win 20-13 in Toulouse on November 13.

Said halfback Jimmy Cowan: "Obviously it's going to be the game of the tour. They touched us up a wee bit in the early part of the year. As a team we're looking forward to it and it should be a great match."

 

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