France only just pushed aside PNG in the opening game. Image courtesy of foxsports.com.au/Anna Gowthorpe/AAP
He produced the lowlight (or the highlight, depending on which way you look at it) of the Rugby League World Cup so far when he slipped over the dead ball line before touching down for a try towards the end of New Zealand’s 42-24 win over Samoa in Warrington last Sunday, and Sonny Bill Williams will have to stew on his slip up for another week after he was left out of the Kiwi squad for Saturday morning’s (AEST) clash with France.
Williams picked up some bumps and bruises against the very physical Samoans, who performed well to fight back from 36-4 down in the second half to score four straight tries against a New Zealand team that took its foot off the pedal. Brisbane second-rower Alex Glenn gets his chance in Williams’ absence, although half Thomas Leuluai won’t be risked for a second straight game due to a groin injury.
After a shock loss to the USA in the lead-up to the tournament, France managed to sneak home 9-8 against Papua New Guinea in its opening match after Titans flyer David Mead missed a penalty goal at the end of the game which would have won the match for the Kumuls. Catalans half William Barthau was the hero kicking the winning field goal, but he was also dynamic in general play and could cause the big Kiwi forward some issues around the ruck. Veteran skipper Thomas Bosc also gave Les Chanticleers plenty of direction across the park.
France hasn’t beaten New Zealand since 1980 but for the most part, has been very competitive when the Kiwis have toured the UK and Europe. New Zealand won their last match-up 62-16 but prior to that, the margins in their three previous meetings was 8 , 16 and 4 points.
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