- 5 Oct 07, 03:42 PM
Paris - Yes I know it wasn't supposed to be like this, World Cup hosts France playing their quarter-final against New Zealand... in Cardiff.
The fact that Wales is the host for this epic contest has not gone down well here and the French mood is not helped by the fact that no-one expects them to win – with some French journalists giving them only a 10% chance of victory.
There is no doubt that the All Blacks are huge favourites but we all love an underdog don’t we? So let’s see if we can't give the hosts some hope.
You know, that semi-final at Twickenham?.
Probably the greatest game in the history of the World Cup - can the French do it again?
Just like for this game, the 1999 All Blacks were odds-on to defeat Les Bleus and two tries from a certain Jonah Lomu put them 24-10 ahead.
But, as we all know, things did not go to plan. Fly-half Christophe Lamaison helped spark an epic comeback and France ended up winning 43-31.
Now it would be some story if we were to get a repeat of that classic but lock Fabien Pelous, one of the two players in the present-day starting XV who featured that October day, says his side can be inspired by what they did eight years ago.
“It is an inspiration because we can say that it's possible to beat them. The teams are different, the stadium is different - all is different, but it's the same - it's possible."
HOME SWEET HOME?
Now bear with me on this one. Obviously, for the French and Kiwi hoards that have to travel to Cardiff, this is a real pain.
But it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the French players, who have had plenty of time to accept that this was on the cards following the defeat to Argentina. And could playing away from home actually be a bonus for Bernard Laporte’s men?
As you would expect, coverage here on television, radio and television is massive but centre David Marty says being away from that is a good thing.
“Maybe it's better to play in Cardiff, without the pressure from our supporters and the press,” he said. “It's better for us because there's no press.”
IT’S MAD, BUT IT JUST MIGHT WORK
France coach Bernard Laporte certainly made everyone sit up when the team for this game was announced.
What’s that you say Bernard? You are leaving out fly-half Frederick Michalak? Selecting centre Damien Traille at full-back - a position he has never filled for France before? Are you sure?
Hang on though, Laporte has a plan.
Laporte will want Traille and Michalak's replacement Lionel Beauxis to use their massive kicks to clear the ball far away from the French try-line and deep into the New Zealand territory.
France will target the line-out and as New Zealand have made the most errors of any team in the tournament according to the official stats, they will also hope to capitalise on any indiscretion.
BEAUXIS, WHO HE?
The 21-year-old Stade Francais fly-half from Tarbes has leaped ahead of both Michalak and the fit again David Skrela for this crunch game.
Beauxis was the International Rugby Board under-21 player of the year in 2006 after helping France win the Under-21 World Cup.
He claimed 24 points in the win over Georgia - taking his tally to 60 points in nine senior caps - and showed he can handle pressure by kicking the late penalty that sealed a draw for Stade against the Ospreys back in January.
Not a bad start to your career and just in case you are in any doubt, French rugby stars have backed his inclusion,
Lamaison said: “People rave about Jonny Wilkinson, but Lionel is just as talented,” while former France scrum-half Fabien Galthie added: “Lionel does not doubt himself.”
PRESSURE, WHAT PRESSURE?
New Zealand know all about this. It has been 20 long years since David Kirk lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy in Auckland and the Kiwis want it back.
After the defeat to France in 1999, a horse owned by the then coach John Hart was spat on as it left a racetrack. Nice.
This All Blacks team has dominated the game since the last World Cup and they know they must deliver, starting with the game against France. Expect similar anger if they don’t.
Ever since it was known New Zealand were France's opponents, Laporte has tried not to call them “All Blacks” in an attempt to demystify the aura of the iconic shirt.
And he must have raised a smile when New Zealand found out they would have to wear their grey second strip in Cardiff after losing a toss of the coin.
When asked why he prefers to call them New Zealanders and not All Blacks, Laporte said: “It is more accurate given the fact they'll be playing in grey.”
There have also been some unfounded rumours going around that France’s home strip was changed to a darker blue with this eventuality in mind.
If I am honest I can't see this New Zealand team losing but you never know - France have done it before and they may just do it again. Let me know if you think I have left anything out or if I am just clutching at straws.
Mark Orlovac is a BBC Sport journalist based in London. He will be based in Paris for the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup.