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French loosies to lead charge: Kaino

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/11/2016 Angelo Risso

The All Blacks' season-ending Test with France is shaping up as a battle of the loose forwards, according to blindside Jerome Kaino.

Kaino, 33, will return to the Test arena on Saturday for the first time since his side's surprise 40-29 loss to the Irish in Chicago, where he played in an unfamiliar locking role.

Having been rested a week later in Rome, the Blues veteran was then ruled out of his side's Dublin revenge mission last weekend with a calf strain.

He'll return to his customary No.6 jumper this weekend, with Matt Todd slotting in on the other side of the All Blacks' scrum.

Skipper Kieran Read will line up at No.8.

Les Bleus, meanwhile, have overlooked selecting a ball-snatching openside in favour of burly loose forward trio of Charles Ollivon, Kevin Gourdon and Louis Picamoles.

Kaino admitted the French selection had broken the mould from previous squads, but could see the advantage of having three hard-running loosies.

"From a loose forward's perspective, their six and seven and Picamoles as well, they love to get the ball in hand and carry a lot in the wider channels, they're devastating," Kaino said.

"I guess (it's) more of an expansive ball-carrying focus, and in the past few games they've played a big part in their attack."

Kaino, with 76 caps to his name, has had plenty of tough battles with the French in his career, including the 2011 World Cup final win.

But the two sides' last encounter could hardly be described in the same category, as the All Blacks steamrolled the French 62-13 in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final.

Kaino said it was easy to keep his feet on the ground with the memory of painful French victories, particularly in the 1999 and 2007 World Cups, in his mind.

"We've put one foot in the French camp, thinking of how they're preparing, thinking back to the quarter-final and how they'll be feeling," Kaino said.

"By the time kick off comes, everyone that runs onto the park will be fresh and excited to lead the charge."

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