5 Things We Learned: France 27 - 13 New Zealand 2023 Rugby World Cup - Ruck

5 Things We Learned: France 27 – 13 New Zealand 2023 Rugby World Cup

The opening match of the 2023 Rugby World Cup is in the books, after a memorable encounter between France and the All Blacks. Les Bleus and New Zealand clashed in the host nation’s capital, with France coming out victorious for a 29-13 win.

Here are five things we learned from France’s win over the All Blacks.

1. New Zealand lose their first ever pool stage match at the Rugby World Cup

After a run of 31 wins in a row, New Zealand have lost a match in the Rugby World Cup pool stages for the first time in their history. In their first match since taking a record defeat against the Springboks, the All Blacks have added another unwanted record loss with this defeat to France. Despite starting strong in Paris, New Zealand seem to have recently lost their aura when taking on the world’s best nations.

You could count on one hand the amount of matches where the All Blacks would be considered ‘underdogs’, especially on the Rugby World Cup stage. However, they entered the Stade de France as exactly that, with their regularly revered Haka not even drumming up an expected response from France. Les Bleus’ historic ‘walk-up’ reply to the war-dance in the 2007 RWC Quarter-Finals identified the All Blacks as a threat that they needed to rise to. Yet this time, Dupont and co watched on stone-faced, and were not fazed by any pre-match intimidation.

New Zealand’s key contributor was winger Mark Telea, with two tries early in both the first and second halves. The Blues man combined with his soon to be former Auckland teammate Beauden Barrett, to gather a cross field kick in the corner for a second minute score.

Then early in the second half, nobody expected to see All Blacks number eight Ardie Savea chip the ball over the French back-line, to start the build up for Telea’s second try. France were caught off-guard, which allowed New Zealand to exploit an overlap, and find Telea out wide from a looping pass, that the Stade de France faithful felt went forward. Telea also halted a try-scoring opportunity, with a dubious but albeit accidental knock-on, stopping France’s efforts to get the ball wide to a salivating Damien Penaud.

2. Ntamack’s Understudy Has A Slow Start, Yet Holds Firm For France

All eyes were on France fly half Matthieu Jalibert, following the unfortunate ACL injury to Romain Ntamack, that has side-lined the Toulouse star for the entire tournament. Jalibert stepped into the spotlight, yet in what may have been a nerve-settling decision, fullback Thomas Ramos stepped up to take the kicks from the tee.

Jalibert had a wobbly start in first half, with two penalties not finding the touchline. However, as the match progressed and the nerves settled after conceding the early try, Jalibert started to take ownness over his back-line. A quiet first half from Antoine Dupont did not help the confidence of his halfback partner, yet Jalibert’s second half was stronger, as he found his kicking boots in the changing rooms at the break, for well taken clearance kicks.

The Bordeaux-Begles man’s starring moment saw him provide the assist for Damien Penaud’s diving finish in the corner, to bring France back into the lead after 54 minutes. Jalibert forced Mark Telea to bite into the tackle, before neatly shipping the ball out wide, for Penaud to dive in unopposed. A narrow knock on from Penaud later stopped what could have been an early contender for try of the tournament, after Jalibert’s neat nudge into the back-field once again split the All Blacks defence.