France coach Marc Lievremont piles pressure on All Blacks ahead of clash between world's in-form sides

By Chris Foy for the Daily Mail

France coach Marc Lievremont lit the fuse for an enthralling 2009 decider between his on-song side and the All Blacks in Marseille tonight by emphasising the daunting scale of what is at stake for New Zealand.

On form, these are the world's two leading teams - with New Zealand officially No 1 in the IRB rankings and Les Bleus quickly emerging as a formidable force again.

So the stage is set for an enthralling contest at the seething Stade Velodrome, after the countries shared the spoils 1-1 in a Test series back in June.

Then, France stunned their hosts in Dunedin's notorious 'House of Pain', Carisbrook, with a 27-22 win. A week later they came close to another upset before Graham Henry's men closed out a tense 14-10 win in Wellington.

France's Maxime Medard (right) outruns New Zealand's Luke McAlister to score a try

House of pain: Maxime Medard (right) outpaces New Zealand's Luke McAlister (left) to score a try in France's shock win at Carisbrook in June this year

With France also victorious in the previous meeting at the last World Cup, when they knocked New Zealand out in the quarter-finals, the momentum is firmly behind the home team today.

Lievremont's stock is rising after a period of endless selection tinkering, with the 20-13 victory over South Africa earlier this month confirming France's renaissance.

France's Rugby Union coach Marc Lievremont

Rising stock: France coach Marc Lievremont

The coach insisted he was not indulging in mind-games when highlighting the burden on the All Blacks to win this game, but his words undoubtedly served to increase the onus on Richie McCaw and Co to perform.

'There is a history here, including a recent France victory,' he said. 'It is different because they see this match as essential to the success of their season. They do not fear us, but they respect us - you can see that from the team they've picked.

'It's their last match of the season and it will be on this match that they are judged. To beat them this Saturday would be to strike a big blow.

'I'm not trying to put pressure on them, or take it off us, but it's true that over the last two years France have won two out of three games. This is the last time we'll meet before the World Cup, where the two teams will be in the same group. This is an essential match for them to round off their season successfully.'

FRANCE: Traille; Clerc, Marty, Jauzion, Medard; Trinh-Duc, Dupuy; Marconnet, Servat, Barcella; Millo-Chlusky, Chabal; Ouedraogo, Bonnaire, Dusautoir (capt). Substitutes: Szarzewski, Mas, Nallet, Puricelli, Parra, David, Heymans.

NEW ZEALAND:Muliaina; Jane, Smith, Nonu, Sivivatu; Carter, Cowan; Woodcock, Hore, Tialata; Thorn, Donnelly; Kaino, Read, McCaw (capt). Substitutes: Flynn, Franks, Boric, Latimer, Ellis, Donald, McAlister.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ire).

TV: ESPN, 7.45pm (kick-off: 8.0).

Giant lock Sebastien Chabal added: 'There is no favourite for this match,' he said. 'To beat them now would send a strong signal out to the rugby world. It could give them something to think about.'

● Italy captain Sergio Parisse will miss the Six Nations after damaging his right knee in training.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now