WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The French under-20 team’s victory over New Zealand earlier this week has provided the senior side with some inspiration ahead of their second test against the All Blacks, captain Mathieu Bastareaud has said.
Led by a superb forward pack and a try from inside centre Romain Ntamack, the son of former French winger Emile, the French upset the ‘Baby Blacks’ 16-7 in Perpignan to advance to their first World Rugby under-20 Championship final in the tournament’s 10-year history.
“We watched the game together, Wednesday morning. It was a good game for us. They played with passion and they showed they love this game,” Bastareaud told reporters in Wellington on Friday.
“It’s why I said to the team we have to play with passion and take pleasure on the field, play together, bleed together.
“Rugby is that (and) we have to show that we are a team not just a selection of players.
“We have a good atmosphere in the group but we have to show that on the field.”
Bastareaud’s side face a battle to stop the All Blacks from clinching the series in Wellington with a game to spare.
They were resolute in their defence for the first 50 minutes during last week’s first test in Auckland before being over-run in the final 30 minutes to lose 52-11.
Coach Jacques Brunel swung the axe this week with five changes to the starting lineup, with the loose forwards the main focus as both flankers Fabien Sanconnie and Judicael Cancoriet were dropped.
Mathieu Babillot and Kelian Galletier, who were not considered for the first test after they played in the Top-14 final and arrived late in New Zealand, have been named to replace the pair on the side of the French scrum.
“We are upset with the flankers in the first test, and that is the reason why I have made the changes,” Brunel told reporters in Auckland on Thursday.
“The new players will be fresh, bring enthusiasm and had good seasons for their clubs.”
Brunel added that he had told his side they needed to perform from the opening whistle until the 80th minute if they were to keep the series alive heading into next week’s third test in Dunedin.
“We were lucky the All Blacks made the same mistakes as us in the first half (last week),” he added. “But why did we concede a lot of points ... in the second half?
“There was limited communication on the field between our players and the All Blacks were of a higher standard.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford