Irish rugby great Brian O’Driscoll says the All Blacks “won’t love” being drawn into the same pool as France at the 2023 Rugby World Cup before enjoying a cheeky reference to their 2007 quarter-final loss.
The All Blacks being drawn into Pool A alongside France and Italy drew plenty of response from the French crowd and presenters on stage this morning – a reaction O’Driscoll says is a natural given.
“New Zealand are more often than not the favourites going into the tournament,” the former Irish midfielder said.
“It’s no surprise it got the most ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ because New Zealand and France drawing against one another – we’ve seen over the years some incredible duels between those two teams.”
Of the 18 nations the All Blacks have played against at Rugby World Cups since its inception in 1987, France is the country they have played the most with seven Tests. One of the next closest, coincidentally, is their other confirmed opponent in Pool A Italy with five Tests.
In their seven clashes with the French though, the All Blacks have come out on top five times although both losses still sting for rugby faithful in New Zealand.
O’Driscoll said for that reason, the All Blacks will be wary heading to France in 2023.
“New Zealand won’t love the prospect of going to France and having them in their pool with what they’ve seen over the last 12 months or so and the quality coming through.
“I don’t know if it’s quite a pool of death but if there’s a tough pool, it’s because those two quality teams are one and two and poor old Italy have to try and do something they’ve never done before.”
Former England outside back Ugo Monye then chipped in on the broadcast, making a reference to one of the more infamous All Blacks-France Rugby World Cup fixtures in the past – the 2007 quarter-final won by the French – which had O’Driscoll in stitches.
“He won’t mind me saying it because we’re good friends but people are asking if Wayne Barnes can referee that New Zealand-France match,” Monye said.
“They were really pleased with how he did it in ’07.”
Barnes was in charge of the 2007 fixture which the French won in a huge upset 20-18 but it featured a forward pass that led the French to score a crucial try although O’Driscoll joked Barnes got it right the first time.
“The whole world knew that the pass went backwards except for maybe six million-odd people in the south of the globe,” O’Driscoll said.
The 141-Test Irishman then got a bit more serious again with his analysis while praising the All Blacks.
“It’s a respect for New Zealand that everyone wants the opposition that they’re playing against to beat them because we don’t want them having a monopoly on World Cups,” he said.
“We want to see outsiders and underdogs come through and beat the team touted to win it all as they usually are.”