It's All Blacks v France again in Cup quarter-final
IF THERE is one French expression the All Blacks do not want to hear this weekend, it's "deja vu" as they prepare for another Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
The All Blacks are still haunted by the nightmare of their ill-fated 2007 campaign, when they started as hot favourites only to be beaten by France in the quarter-finals at Wales' flagship arena.
The luck of the draw has the All Blacks, as winners of Pool C, matched against the runners-up from Pool D. Ireland ensured it was not them when they beat France 24-9 in an intensely bruising clash on Sunday.
Ireland will now play Argentina while the All Blacks face a scenario they have been planning for as coach Steve Hansen insisted the reasons for the unhappy 2007 campaign needed to be addressed.
"We can't fear that," Hansen said before the France-Ireland game, which Ireland won 24-9 on Sunday, when questioned about the likelihood of a repeat against France.
"There is going to be a lot of anxiety from the public about that. It will be what it will be. I think we rocked up a little arrogant possibly (in 2007)... We were too comfortable, and just expected it to happen," he said.
Richie McCaw and Dan Carter played in that match for New Zealand. Thierry Dusautoir played for France while Frederic Michalak and Dimitri Szarzewski were on the bench.
Keven Mealamu, now in his fourth World Cup but not required for the 2007 quarter-final, said it was valuable for the newer players to understand what happened then and what happened four years later, when the All Blacks beat France in the final.
"There will always be a lot taken from 2007 and from 2011 as well. All we need to do though, is make sure we have learnt the lessons from those World Cups and improve on them here."
Lessons from eight years ago are the underlying reason for the All Blacks' varied strategies in their pool matches against Argentina, Namibia, Georgia and Tonga.
Hansen believed it was more important the All Blacks rehearsed for scenarios they are likely to face in the sudden-death phase of the tournament rather than win by cricket scores.
Flanker Victor Vito said there had been a noticeable change of mood in the All Black camp once they completed their unbeaten pool run.
"You can sense a clear focus now," Vito said. "The quarter-final is there, there is no hiding from that, but it's about moving towards it and making sure we are in the right headspace, which I've got no doubt we are."
One thing the All Blacks are happy about is finishing pool play last Friday, which gave them two more recovery days than France, who left the field battered after being forced to make 181 tackles against Ireland.