DUNEDIN, New Zealand - A fired-up France are demanding respect as they head into the final Test against New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday, saying they plan to continue where they left off in the second Test.
Although the All Blacks won the second Test 26-13, France were a man down for most of the game after fullback Benjamin Fall was wrongly sent off and also dominated the second half. The world champion All Blacks were subsequently criticised for not putting away France the way they had with the 52-11 victory in the first Test. But lock Bernard Le Roux called the reaction "disrespectful" to France, saying they did not get the credit they deserved.
"We had a good game, we put a lot of pressure on them. It's not that they were bad, they're the best team in the world and we tried really hard to put a lot of pressure on them," the South African-born Le Roux said. "I find it disrespectful against us and for them, I think they gave it all."
The All Blacks led 21-6 at half-time and lost the second half 7-5, spending much of the time starved of possession. After a controversial yellow card in the first Test and a red card that was rescinded after the second Test, there was ample motivation for the French.
"Our goal for this tour was to come here and be competitive and we've come off the back of a long season," Le Roux said. "To have a victory, it would be good to then go on holiday and not have to explain to everyone why we took a lot of points in New Zealand or not performed as we should have."
Coach Jacques Brunel said he could sense the pride in his squad as they prepared this week. "We feel that there is still freshness in training, even after the weight of a long season. There is also a mental freshness, the players are really motivated," he said.
With the match being played under the roofed Dunedin Stadium, and a fast-paced clash likely, Brunel has made two changes to his starting lineup. Clermont pair Wesley Fofana and Remi Lamerat will replace captain Mathieu Bastareaud and Geoffrey Doumayrou in the centres. "From the very start I knew I was going to play Fofana and Lamerat. They did not come to New Zealand to sit at the beach," Brunel said.
A thigh injury meant the 44-Test Fofana was not considered for the first two Tests. The only other change in the France line up sees Felix Lambey replace lock Paul Gabrillagues on the bench. Scrum-half Morgan Parra will captain the side in Bastareaud's absence.