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France skipper demands perfection to beat New Zealand

Guilhem Guirado says his France teammates must be on top of their game to have a chance of beating New Zealand. Reuters/Benoit Tessier

France skipper Guilhem Guirado on Friday urged his teammates to seek a perfect match in order to beat world champions New Zealand on Saturday at the Stade de France.

Guirado's exhortation came on the eve of a Test against the planet's most pitiless pack of players who went unbeaten during the 2017 Rugby Championship which involves Australia, South Africa and Argentina.

On their way to the crown, New Zealand subjected South Africa to a 57-0 annihilation. France go into the game on the back of a disastrous summer tour of South Africa where they lost all three of their Test matches.

Guirado, 31, who plays for Toulon in France's Top 14, sadi: "The tour of South Africa was not far short of humiliating and we now have to approach something close to perfection to overcome the All Blacks."

Last November at the Stade de France, the hosts matched New Zealand throughout the match but were pipped 24-19.

This year, France coach Guy Noves has embraced boldness by naming four debutants for the match including a new and young half-back pairing in 20-year-old scrum-half Antoine Dupont, who will make his first start after three substitute appearances and 21-year-old fly-half Anthony Belleau.

Noves also offered a surprise with the recall of the experienced centre Mathieu Bastareaud. The 29-year-old will win his 39th cap but it is his first since the 2015 World Cup when he was part of the team that was humiliated 62-13 by New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

"The choices have been made based on the potential at our disposition," said Noves, whose side have won only three of eight Tests this year.

"When you have around 18 players injured, you take into account the form and the physical preparation. We didn't have any other options than these."

France will play another Test againt New Zealand on Tuesday in Lyon. That will be followed by a Test against South Africa on 18 November and a match against Japan a week later.