Back Beauden to make his mark as New Zealand host mercurial France
Fly-half can light up historic night for Barrett family
Sky Sports Action, 8.35am Saturday
Many pundits saw signs of a French revival in this year’s Six Nations, but whether or not their decline is ending, it’s clear to see when the downturn started.
Les Bleus reached the final of the 2011 World Cup and deserved to win the final, in which they were edged 8-7 by triumphant hosts New Zealand.
Since then the teams have met seven times and the All Blacks have won the lot by an average scoreline of 32-13 and scoring 26 tries to six.
That record explains a handicap in the mid-20s for Saturday’s first Test of three in Auckland, but it's hard to take a view on that line given it's France's first match together since April and New Zealand's first since the autumn.
The line-ups have been shuffled too, with All Blacks skipper Kieran Read sidelined after back surgery while France have rested skipper Guilhem Girardo for this tour and scrum-half Morgan Parra returns after a three-year absence.
France seem to be finding more of a solid footing under coach Jacques Brunel and as well as beating England in the Six Nations they came within a last-gasp 43-phase drop goal of beating Grand Slam champions Ireland.
But the consistency isn't there and it could just as easily be a landslide as a close-fought contest.
New Zealand usually have tries in them and their back three of Ben Smith, returning from a sabbatical, Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane are all short prices to get on the scoresheet.
But the 9-4 about fly-half Beauden Barrett looks a generous price given his tireless support play and scoring record in big games. He scored in the 2015 World Cup final and bagged two in last year's fightback victory over Australia in Dunedin.
It's a big night for the Barrett family, the first occasion three brothers have started for the All Blacks, and Beauden could provide the icing on the cake.
B Barrett to score a try
1pt 9-4 Betfair
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