Remembering The Legendary France-New Zealand 2007 World Cup Quarterfinal

By Colman Stanley

Yesterday saw the 15th anniversary of one of the most infamous, but celebrated, games the Rugby World Cup has seen.

France vs New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in 2007, pitted an underperforming Les Bleus, who had already suffered a shock opening day loss to Argentina, against an all-conquering All Blacks side who were heavy favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

The build-up to the match was intense, featuring one of the all-time haka responses, and the match itself went down to the wire and was a day of reckoning for both Wayne Barnes and Thierry Dusatoir, for wholly different reasons. The aftermath and response from members of the All Black, showed that the loss had shaken them to their core.

Haka Response

New Zealand went into the match with four wins, four bonus points, and an average of 77 points per game in the group stage.

France, by contrast, had looked sub-par, particularly given that it was their home tournament. However, they did have an advantage - one that the Irish knew intimately - they were New Zealand's bogey team.

Despite this lingering doubt in the back of the All Blacks' minds, France would need more, and they provided themselves with further impetus through a brave and confrontational response to the haka.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iOiRO3uNOk

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Performance Of Wayne Barnes And Thierry Dusatoir

Wayne Barnes was widely condemned after the match by the media, fans, and New Zealand head coach Graham Henry, who sensationally accused him of match-fixing.

One call in particular, which caused the most anger, was his decision not to go to the TMO for France's match-winning try, which would have shown a clear forward pass from Damien Traille to Frederic Michalak in the build-up.

Despite being currently considered the best referee in the sport, the match tarnished Barnes' reputation for years, and it shows his phenomenal character to have gotten where he is today.

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In contrast, Thierry Dusautoir announced himself on the world stage as one of the game's premier players, with a man-of-the-match, 38 tackle performance.

Dusautoir would go onto win the World Player of the Year in 2011, before retiring as one of the game's greats in 2015.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbHP2IbHh2I

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_PZKtoVT_4

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Aftermath

Such was the magnitude of the defeat, it elicited remarkable behaviour from members of the All Blacks team and staff.

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Just a couple of days later, the usually upstanding Doug Howlett was arrested on suspicion for causing criminal damage after jumping on two cars outside Heathrow Airport.

"There was drink involved, and that's not an excuse, but I do take responsibility," said Howlett after the incident.

Graham Henry accused officials of math-fixing in his 2012 autobiography, stating that "we just got sawn off by the officials in the game and that’s the major reason we lost the game. The All Blacks didn’t get a penalty for the last 60 minutes of the game and attacked over 70% of that time.

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“Now that’s, that’s impossible but it wasn’t impossible on that particular day.”

2 August 2016; Leinster head coach Leo Cullen, left, and Sir Graham Henry during Leinster Rugby Open Training Session at Greystones RFC, Dr. Hickey Park in Greystones, Co. Wicklow. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The greatest no. 10 of ever, Dan Carter, opened up about the mental affect the match had on him, leading him to focus more on that area of his game.

"If I could change one thing in my career I would pay more attention to the mental side from the start," said Carter.

"The defeat to France was a huge lesson. Under pressure, we withdrew into ourselves and stuck to what the coaches had said.

"We stopped thinking. I learned then that for all the time you spent in the gym and on the training field, not enough was done in terms of mental preparation."

"It allowed me to confront my demons so that playing France in another quarter-final in Cardiff became a positive, lucky enough to have the chance for revenge, rather than being haunted by ghosts."

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