Rugby World Cup 2015: All Blacks to confront ghosts of the past against France in Cardiff

At last, the All Blacks have their chance to exorcise the demons of 2007.

Richie McCaw and Thierry Dusautoir are preparing to bash each other once again in the World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff on Saturday evening( 9pm SA TIME ).

At last, the All Blacks have their chance to exorcise the demons of 2007.

Almost eight years to the day since France rocked the New Zealanders by slaying them 20-18 in their World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff, the two countries will again duke it out at Millennium Stadium to determine who should advance to the semi, where they will meet either South Africa or Wales, at Twickenham on October 25.

Ireland’s mighty 24-9 victory against France in Cardiff in their final pool match on Monday morning may have came at a heavy cost with injuries to captain Paul O’Connell and playmaker Jonny Sexton, but their top qualification ensures they will meet Argentina in their quarterfinal and avoid the tournament’s top seed New Zealand.

So now the scene is set for New Zealand to once again confront one of their deadliest World Cup foes: Les Bleus.

One thing is guaranteed – there is no way the All Blacks will be so full of themselves that they will fail to take France seriously.

One of the most startling admissions from the All Blacks following their shock loss to France in 2007 was that they were over-confident, had got ahead of themselves and didn’t bank on inexperienced referee Wayne Barnes making life so difficult.

“In 2007, I think we rocked up a little bit arrogant, like previous All Blacks teams over the years may have,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen stated recently. “We were too comfortable, having come off being the No 1 team for a long time and just expected it to happen.”

For those who witnessed the loss, whether they were at the ground on watching TV, the images of what happened during the game will remain burned in their memories for a while yet.

Accusations that Barnes lost his seeing eye-dog that day might be correct, but the All Blacks operated like robots when it was obvious the whistler had bottled it and they needed to change their game plan.

Afterwards the players choked back tears as they came to terms with one of the greatest muggings in World Cup history.

One player who advanced his reputation that day was Thierry Dusautoir, the French flanker making 38 tackles as the All Blacks forwards repeatedly carried the ball around the ruck fringes.

As expected, Dusautoir, later appointed captain and who almost led his side to another famous upset as the All Blacks only scraped home 8-7 in the 2011 World Cup final in Auckland, was defiant after the loss to Ireland.

“As long as we are in the tournament we have a chance,” he said. “Personally, I played them (the All Blacks) 11 or 12 times, we always were the underdogs and still we managed to defeat them a couple of times.

“Everything is always possible.”

Some fans also felt they had been ripped-off following the 2007 loss in Cardiff. A number of faithful followers, having believed the All Blacks, who entered the tournament as hot favourites, would at least advance to the semis arrived in the UK only to be advised the team the squad were already packing their bags for the return journey.

While only captain and flanker Richie McCaw and first five-eighth Dan Carter remain from the team that started that day – loosehead prop Tony Woodcock was another but a hamstring injury has ended his tournament – their team-mates will be aware of how the defeat in 2007 stung the pride of the All Blacks.

Coach Hansen and defence mentor Wayne Smith were part of the coaching crew that day, working under the now-retired Graham Henry.

Neither will have forgotten what happened that day.

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