Lima Sopoaga ready to help lead inexperienced All Blacks against French XV

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NZN

It's the midweek match with big Test match significance for Lima Sopoaga.

Lima Sopoaga celebrates against South Africa

Lima Sopoaga celebrates against South Africa

Source: Photosport

The Highlanders playmaker is among the more seasoned members of a greenhorn All Blacks side to face the French selection in Lyon tomorrow but he will be just as desperate to impress.

The last time Sopoaga started was the 23-18 loss to Australia in Brisbane last month, a match where the 26-year-old failed to silence detractors who say Beauden Barrett is streets ahead of any other New Zealand first five-eighth.

Sopoaga, who has come off the bench in 12 of his 14 Tests, knows the importance of playing a strong, leading role in Lyon.

He says he and experienced halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow will need to provide direction while supporting No.8 Luke Whitelock, an unlikely appointment as captain.

"In a way we have to lead. There's no Reado (Kieran Read), there's no Beaudy or Sam Cane out there. It's us, it falls on our shoulders," Sopoaga said.

"For someone like myself, I don't mind that.

"We've got to be the ones who set the tone and hopefully the enthusiasm from the younger boys rubs off on us."

Adding a level of intrigue for Sopoaga is the inclusion on the bench of uncapped Crusaders pivot Richie Mo'unga, who shone at domestic level this year and is closing in as a Test contender.

Sopoaga is putting any talk of competition aside.

He says the match will be an important learning ground for the likes of Mo'unga.

"We've got six new guys coming in so the best thing for us is you want to go up against some of the better teams," he said.

"What better way than to go out against a fairly strong side and see how you match up."

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