| 5.3°C Dublin

Kiwis deny ‘farce’ by French

ALL Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen has dismissed out of hand the idea that the France team selected for Saturday’s World Cup clash at Eden Park is a second-string outfit.

The front page splash on today’s edition of New Zealand’s biggest newspaper, the Herald, described the much-anticipated match as a “French Farce” and accused the Europeans of fielding a “B team” for the Eden Park encounter.

“I think it’s a really good team,” Hansen told reporters. “Their coach has picked what he thinks is the best team for the tournament.”

France have famously sent the |All Blacks out of two World Cups, most recently with their shock 20-18 victory in Cardiff at the 2007 tournament.

The media accusations against France lay mainly in coach Marc Lievremont’s decision to hand Morgan Parra, normally a scrumhalf, his first start at fly-half alongside Dimitri Yachvili at halfback for the Pool A showdown.

“You can say that it’s the first time they’ve picked that combination, because that’s a fact,” added Hansen. “But when we picked Richard Kahui on the wing, everybody thought we were crazy. That hasn’t turned out too badly.”

“Who are we to suggest what is their best combination at halfback and first five for this test match?”

France’s players also dismissed the theory. “The local press must have scandals to sell newspapers,” said second row Pascal Pape. “It’s all part of the battle. The best answer will be brought on the pitch on Saturday.”But it did make me smile.

Lievremont has earned a reputation for tinkering with his sides, but his decision to pit the inexperienced Parra against Dan Carter, the world’s best |fly-half, baffled most observers – and Parra himself found it surprising.

First-choice prop Fabien Barcella and Imanol Harinordoquy, among the best flankers in the world, were also left on the bench.

Harinordoquy thinks too much is being made of it.

“They’re trying to light the fuse but the wood is damp. It won't catch,” he said. “I feel like telling them that I've bought four (tickets) at 250 euros ($343 dollars) each, and I'm not complaining.”

Parra has played little more than 30 minutes at fly-half |in his international career – or two cameo roles in the second half against Japan and Canada - .

“It is a lack of respect for the players chosen for Saturday,” he added more seriously. “That motivates us more than it demotivates us. It is extra motivation.”