The opening game of the World Cup is shaping up to be the most epic clash we have seen in World Rugby for a long time.
France has had an almost perfect run into the World Cup with mostly top performances. New Zealand has had a weird 18 months with a series loss to Ireland, 2 losses to Argentina, and a pummeling by South Africa this past weekend.
Still, it would be exceptionally foolish to think they will not be brilliant at the World Cup.
But France has the odds stacked in their favor. They are playing at home, led by Dupont (who most people consider to be the best 9 in the world), and with a coach with a winning record that is 15% higher than the 2nd place French national coach.
Their Achilles heal is the loss of the dynamic Romain Ntamack at 10, which might disrupt their attacking flair. If they overcome that, which they should, they are going to be phenomenal!
If you look at the All Black first choice 22 and the whole squad for that matter, most rugby enthusiasts would go into battle with them with a lot of confidence. They have not been the team that they have been in past years but they have an amazing rugby culture. There is pride and an understanding of what it is to wear that black jersey as a player.
If they can tap into that and pull together, they can walk away with the win. They will also grow in confidence and strength as the tournament goes on.
In this game though, it should be France walking away with the win. It might be the most brutal opening game in the World Cup we have ever seen but it is a mouthwatering prospect!