France see cracks in All Blacks defence
AUCKLAND, 22 Oct. - France believe they have found the secrets to unlocking one of the most impregnable defensive lines in world rugby.
In a bold claim, defence coach David Ellis says he has discovered weaknesses in the All Blacks' rearguard structure that his team are now primed to exploit in the Rugby World Cup 2011 Final on Sunday.
“The All Blacks have different defensive systems and there are more weaknesses than we found in the Welsh system and also in the Australian system,” said Ellis, who has been scrutinising videotapes of their opponents.
"We feel there are certain areas of their defence we can exploit.
"There are things that we found out and we are quite capable of exploiting those weaknesses.”
The Englishman, who has been working with France since 2000, refused to expand on the nature of those weaknesses but said they have been present throughout the tournament.
The Wallabies failed to score a try against New Zealand in their semi-final defeat last week but Ellis believes that was due to poor Australian decision-making rather than an impenetrable All Blacks defence.
"I watched the game and I was expecting Australia to score and turn the game around,” he said.
“I think a lot of the choices they made on their attack were in the wrong areas of the field and they didn't disturb the All Black defence in a manner they should have done.
“I was waiting for the moment where they would break the defence. They did not do it, mainly because of their poor choices."
Aside from exploiting chinks in the All Blacks’ defensive armour, Ellis was clear on what is required from Les Bleus if they are to reverse the 37-17 defeat they suffered at the hands of New Zealand during the pool stage.
During that match France put the Kiwis under early pressure but failed to maintain their intensity and were soon overrun by a rampant All Blacks attack that notched up five tries in the process.
"We have to make sure we put the wall up and stop them from getting through,” said Ellis, whose background is in rugby league.
“We also need to be going forward and put the half backs under pressure, not only with our attack but with our defence.
“We have to make them stall and if we do that, then we can add pressure from both sides, from attack and defence."
The All Blacks might be tempted to laugh off Ellis’s claims of defensive weakness, given they have leaked only seven tries in their six matches at the tournament, but his credentials give weight to his claims.
During his 11 years in the job he has orchestrated three surprise French victories over New Zealand, including the remarkable result in the quarter-finals of RWC 2007.
Ellis believes if his team put the All Blacks under enough pressure on Sunday the Kiwis will sense a little bit of history repeating and panic.
“There are occasions in major sporting events, particularly when certain teams are involved, there is always something in the back of their mind: deja vu,” he said.