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Test preview: All Blacks to dominate France in Wellington after Eden Park mauling

Yes, yes, I know I picked the All Blacks by just three points before the first Test.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. That's what happens when you get conservative and over think matters such as bumpy preparation and "first Test of the year" history.

But then who could have foreseen that the sin-binning of French lock Paul Gabrillagues would not only prise open the floodgates but smash them down like Ngani Laumape with defenders close to the line?

Some pundits spouted nonsense that it ruined the contest from that point at 51 minutes. Not really. The French were tiring, kicking injudiciously and about to be opened up in palpable fashion. The sin-binning merely accelerated the process.

The funny thing is, both sides should improve tomorrow night in the capital, a city where the French have never tasted success against the All Blacks. The Gallaher Cup should be retained by the All Blacks.

Presuming there are no cyclonic conditions a la 1961, the All Blacks, unchanged for the first time in three years, should be sharper on attack for more of the clash, while their pack will certainly be better.

That is a sobering thought for Jacques Brunel that men such as Sam Cane, Owen Franks and Sam Whitelock will be on task from the first whistle, while it is highly unlikely that Anton Lienert-Brown will again drop two balls, as he did at Eden Park.

We may get to see more of the tweaked All Blacks' attacking strategy, in which the Barrett brothers Beauden and Jordie operate in dangerous and often deadly tandem.

Brunel has, unsurprisingly, made several changes to his squad, but they must endeavour to get more ball in space to wing Teddy Thomas. It is all very well to be defence-focused against the All Blacks - that has worked for them, famously, in the past, such as RWC 2007 - but we await the joie de vivre that France brought to its glorious wins at Eden Park in 1979 and '94.

Gael Fickou, now installed in the No 11 jersey, may bring some of that flair, but it is a shame Wesley Fofana is not yet ready. Fullback Benjamin Fall may be a more robust defender than Maxime Medard but can he ring alarm bells in the All Blacks' defence?

The French were in self-flagellation mode at their Eden Park loose forward display, so it is over to Kevin Gourdon, who has shifted to the base of the scrum, Kelian Galletier and Mathieu Babillot to show us how to combat messrs L Whitelock, Cane and Squire.

There was loose talk of France being inspired by their Under 20s' upset of New Zealand at the Junior World Championship. Good luck with that. Les Bleuets crushed the young New Zealanders in the pack midweek.

That will not happen in Wellington.

France's Remy Grosso (C runs into All Blacks Ofa Tu'ungafasi (L) and Sam Cane (R during the Steinlager Series rugby match between the All Blacks and France at the Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday the 9th of June 2018. Copyright Photo by Marty Melville / www.Photosport.nz
France's Remy Grosso was injured in a tackle involving All Blacks Ofa Tu'ungafasi (L) and Sam Cane. Source: Photosport