Wow. That one stung. Big time. Just two weeks ago, the All Blacks conceded their worst-ever losing margin in a record defeat to South Africa in Twickenham Stadium, London, losing by 7-35. I didn't expect a win by any means, but I certainly didn't expect France to take total control in the second half, as they All Blacks sat back by 8-9 at half-time. The All Blacks' loss of momentum lead to a final score of 13-27, as they were unable to take opportunities.
Another unfortunate record for the Ian Foster era, is that this was the first pool stage match the All Blacks had ever lost. So, how did it happen? We'll look through the team from jersey number 1 through to 23, so that we can see where the momentum was lost.
All Blacks Player Ratings
Number 3, Nepo Laulala (centre) played his 50th test match; having debuted for the All Blacks back in 2015. Photo: Max Sharp.
Loosehead Prop - Ethan de Groot (3/10)
As a big fan of the number 1, I'd go as far to say de Groot had never had a bad game in his career up until today. Uini Atonio however, did not give de Groot a good time in the scrum, as he buckled under the Frenchman's weight twice, resulting in 2 penalties being conceded. Pushed back on his only carry, de Groot made just 4/4 tackles due to the high possession rate.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (5/10)
Did his best around the field, but didn't do enough to beat the French pack. Taylor made 3 metres, 3 carries, 2 passes and 5/6 tackles, but will be disappointed to have botched a lineout throw in the first half. Made way in the 57th minute for Taukei'aho.
Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (6/10)
Perhaps the best performer of the starting front-rowers, Laulala ran an effective decoy line to help Mark Telea score the opening try, while he ran 9 metres off 3 carries. The All Blacks had 56% possession in the first half, but does that excuse 2/3 tackles?
Lock 4 - Sam Whitelock (6/10)
Without support from pod-mates, Whitelock had to take the ball in on all 4 of his carries, only gaining 1 metre. Made a few passes from the lineout, while winning 1 turnover. Much like several other Kiwi players, Whitelock had a low tackle count, with 5/6.
Lock 5 - Scott Barrett (8/10)
Barrett was the only player in the tight-five forwards to really give it to the French, though the arrival of Romain Taofifenua reduced Barrett's effectiveness. His stat sheet shows us 34 metres, 5 defenders beaten, 9 carries, 5 passes, 1 offload, 11/13 tackles and 2 turnovers, for a strong performance, particularly in the first half.
Blindside Flanker - Tupou Vaa'i (4/10)
After Sam Cane was a late withdrawal due to injury, Vaa'i was promoted from the bench. Prior to this test, he'd played just two minutes of test rugby at 6... and it showed. Normally a confident player, nerves got the best of Vaa'i, who wasn't as aggressive hitting rucks. Didn't get to carry, but made 3 passes and 6/7 tackles. The coaches set him up to fail by not playing him at lock.
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i (5/10)
A bit of a mixed performance saw Papali'i bullied up front by Francois Cros in the breakdown, though he was the top tackler with 12/12. Papali'i did well with ball-in-hand for 36 metres and 1 clean break off 4 carries, but will feel guilty of forcing Fainga'anuku off his wing, leaving plenty of space before Melvyn Jaminet's try for France.
Number 8 - Ardie Savea (7/10)
Captain in his second Rugby World Cup, Savea showed real heart. With 38 metres, 4 defenders beaten and 10 carries, he never gave up, getting close to scoring near the end. Effective in most other areas with a good kick, 9 passes, 2 offloads and 7/7 tackles, though he was taken care of in the breakdown.
Halfback - Aaron Smith (7/10)
Smith should not have been subbed off. Sick of being a scrum bystander in Super Rugby, he made a great job of pressuring Antoine Dupont, but did have a tackle rate of 5/8. Crisp passing service as normal, with 10 metres off his only carry too.
First Five - Richie Mo'unga (7/10)
Much like Laulala, Mo'unga did his best to shine in test number 50. Had a proper all-round game with 93 metres, 4 defenders beaten, 9 carries, 21 passes, 2 offloads, 1 turnover and a try-saving tackle on Damian Penaud; all to his name. Had he kicked better, it would certainly be a higher rating for Mo'unga.
Left Wing - Mark Telea (9/10)
If a winger can still stand out despite a poor pack in front, there's a good chance that winger is world-class. Fire in his eyes, Telea was herculean for 114 metres, 11 defenders beaten, 3 clean breaks and 14 carries. Stepped up on defence too, for 5/6 tackles.
Second Five - Anton Lienert-Brown (4/10)
Only got to touch the ball seven times, for a tough start to his second World Cup. The 64-test veteran was only able to gain 2 metres off 2 carries, but enabled Telea a few times with his 5 passes. Subbed off for Havili after 65 minutes, never really getting into the game.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (8/10)
After making 1 clean break very early in the game, France put plenty of emphasis on defending against Ioane. He made 56 metres, beat 4 defenders and went for 6 carries too, while having a huge defensive effort to shut down French attacking chances, with a rate of 8/9.
Right Wing - Will Jordan (3/10)
Do not let the stats deceive you, Jordan had a rare shocker. Although he ran 78 metres and 1 clean break off his 7 carries, Jordan let a pass to Papali'i go begging in the first half, while his kicking game waned towards the half-time hooter. Yellow-carded for tackling a mid-air Thomas Ramos, before getting lucky to avoid another one for a similar incident.
Fullback - Beauden Barrett (5/10)
Another real mixed bag of a performance, Barrett ran 123 metres and beat 2 defenders from 17 carries, but not much really came from his 12 passes. Thoroughly outplayed in the air, he didn't quite bring the team into the opportunities that opened in broken play. Defensive highlight was 1 turnover won.
Reserve Hooker - Samisoni Taukei'aho (6/10)
Tried to revitalise the team with his 7 metres and 4 carries, also making 2 passes. Taukei'aho did keep the lineout steady too, but the All Blacks' control of the game was gone by this point. This will be a strong learning curve, for 2027, when Taukei'aho will be at his career peak.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (5/10)
With France well and truly bossing the momentum of the match by the time Tu'ungafasi came on in the 52nd minute, there was little more he could do than make 2/3 tackles. Was penalised at one stage. Can the 31-year-old stick around for a third World Cup?
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (5/10)
Provided he stays injury-free, the pain of this result will mould Newell into a world-class player. The busiest defender amongst the replacements, he made 4/5 tackles. Penalised in the ruck once, would it have been better to pick Williams over Newell?
Reserve Lock - Brodie Retallick (No rating)
The farce of a selection that was six outside backs picked for this tournament, meant Retallick needed to literally return from injury early, due to Cane's late withdrawal. Let's hope the 12 minutes Retallick played, that he won't be rated for, won't inflame his sore knee.
Reserve Loose Forward - Luke Jacobson (5/10)
On for Vaa'i with 23 minutes to go, Jacobson struggled to make an impact, similarly to other substitutes. An average performance with 6 metres off 2 carries, 3 passes and 2/2 tackles; Jacobson came on to do his job and that was it.
Reserve Halfback - Finlay Christie (4/10)
Substitutes are meant to change the game in a good way, but Christie slowed down the All Blacks' attack for sure. With France in control, an experienced player or a young gun, was needed to provide some spark.
Reserve Midfielder - David Havili (6/10)
Made a big hit for his lone tackle attempt, while definitely making some better kicks than a few other players on the pitch. Havili's 7 metres were off a single carry, while he made 2 passes; though he didn't have enough involvement to turn the tide.
Reserve Utility Back - Leicester Fainga'anuku (No rating)
Handed his fourth test cap with 8 minutes to go, felt like he was just handed minutes for the sake of it; not an ideal approach to a World Cup match.