French Select Halfback at First-Five – It’s All Too Much

It’s dreadfully churlish to be critical of the wonderful New Zealand folk, who couldn’t be more welcoming, but the Ovale touring party feel the media have got themselves into rather a lather over the French team selection.  The hysteria has stemmed from the French selecting a ‘halfback’, Morgan Parra at, ahem, ‘first-five’.  The NZ Herald duly went into a tailspin.  It’s an outrage!  France are putting out a B Team!  They are throwing the game!  It’s disrespectful to the All Blacks!  And to the fans!  It’s a French farce!  The IRB must outlaw this!

It’s all completely overdone.  For a start, it is a dangerous stance to take – if the French team is so poor, go out and put 50 points on them and show them what you make of it.  For another, the selection is nowhere close to a B Team.  From 11-15 it’s France’s strongest selection, and while he is not a natural, Morgan Parra has been the most impressive performer in the 10 slot so far for France.  As for the second choice front-row, New Zealand would want to be careful indeed if they choose to identify Jean Baptiste Poux as a sub-par reserve player.

Some of the coverage this morning, having had 24 hours to mull it over, has been more reasonable.  Indeed, Colin Meades saluted the French cunning, noting they have the bench stacked with matchwinners, and that lulling the Kiwis into a false sense of security before ambushing them in the last 30 minutes might just be the best ploy.  It worked in 2007, when Michalak was sprung to deliver a game-turning cameo.  A repeat remains unlikely, but the French have played their hand craftily indeed.

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