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French look to emulate brilliant ABs

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/11/2016 Angelo Risso

Somewhere deep within new French boss Guy Noves' thinking for his Test side lies the splendour of the All Blacks jumper in full flight.

Les Bleus will take on the world champions on Saturday for the first time since being trampled 62-13 in last year's World Cup quarter-final, where winger Julian Savea ran riot with a hattrick.

Noves, who ascended to the Test job after that Cardiff debacle, promised at the time to restore France's renowned running rugby and flamboyant style.

And after a difficult initiation, finishing fifth in this year's Six Nations and drawing their two-match June series with Argentina, Noves feels his side is finally showing its potential.

A 52-8 win over Samoa two weeks ago was followed by a nail-biting 25-23 loss to Australia, with playmaker Camille Lopez missing a last-second drop goal.

Noves, who formerly coached Toulouse for 22 years, told reporters on Thursday he wanted to see further improvement from his side against the best in the business.

"We'd like to perform as the All Blacks do, (because) when we watch the great nations of rugby, they're playing this kind of rugby," Noves said.

"We admire the best, which are the All Blacks, and they're an example for us."

France has made three changes to the side which was so close to snatching victory against Australia, with Lopez, fullback Brice Dulin and loosehead Xavier Chiocci entering the XV.

South African-born fullback Scott Spedding, meanwhile, has been ruled out with a foot injury.

Noves said his side, which contains three burly loose forwards in Charles Ollivon, Kevin Gourdon and Louis Picamoles, could take a few lessons from the All Blacks' loss to Ireland in Chicago.

On that day Ireland punished the All Blacks with every set-piece and attacking opportunity they had, and Les Bleus would have to do the same.

But even then, a positive result was not guaranteed.

"After that defeat, they've come back with basic rugby and have shown another face," Noves said.

"When they want to win, they win."

Picamoles, 30, will line up in his customary No.8 position on Saturday, just as he did against New Zealand 12 months ago.

But he said the 49-point loss was already a distant memory.

"We're not talking about it, we prefer to look forward," the Northampton ace said.

"We've got a new style with a new vision of rugby and the whole squad is following this idea."

France: Brice Dulin, Noa Nakaitaci, Remi Lamerat, Wesley Fofana, Virimi Vakatawa, Camille Lopez, Maxime Machenaud, Louis Picamoles, Kevin Gourdon, Charles Ollivon, Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Uini Atonio, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Xavier Chiocci. Reserves: Camille Chat, Cyril Baille, Rabah Slimani, Julien Le Devedec, Damien Chouly, Baptiste Serin, Jean-Marc Doussain, Gael Fickou

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