All Blacks: Dane Coles calls for ‘walk the talk’ response as France lie in wait

Dane Coles has won the No 2 jersey for the last test of the year against France.

Alfredo Falcone/Photosport

Dane Coles has won the No 2 jersey for the last test of the year against France.

Dane Coles has provided a succinct answer to where the All Blacks need to improve this week against a young and hungry France team: physicality and the breakdown.

Hooker Coles will start against the French in a much-changed All Blacks 23 for the Paris test, and he knows that unless the men in black lift from the Ireland loss it could a long night at the office.


All Blacks forwards coach John Plumtree on channelling the pain and whether halfback Aaron Smith plays v France.

“We gave the Irish a lot of ball, and the physicality was nowhere near where it needed to be against the Irish, so that’s been two points that we’ve probably taken out of the week to make our game a lot better,” Coles said.

“They [France] might take something out of that Irish test. Some of the footage … they use the ball quite well, they’re quite skilful players … and they’ve got big lads that try and run over the top of you.”

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Mustering a response for the French could be easier said than done. Coles was sporting a black eye as he spoke to reporters from Paris, and it’s clear the All Blacks are going deep into their energy reserves for the final test of the year.

However, Coles was in no mood for excuses, declaring that the side was “in a pretty good space” and simply had to make their actions louder than words against France.

“The whole group was hurting [after the Ireland loss], not just the guys who played,” Coles said.

“…but we have a really good session this arvo, the Thursday one, and both of teams got into us and there was a bit of edge and intent.

“So, that’s always a good omen but it’s only Thursday. It’s about walking the talk for Saturday. But we’re in a good space at the moment.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of the boys who have been here [on tour] from the start and they don’t reckon it has seemed as long as it was.

“Obviously, boys are keen to get home and see their families, but everyone is pretty present, and that’s a good thing, and determined to perform.”

The heat to improve the decision-making and physical intent won’t apply solely to the forwards. Against Ireland, Will Jordan conceded a maul turnover as the All Blacks tried to run from deep only for Jordan to be held up by Irish flanker Caelan Doris.

That summed up the significant lift in physicality the All Blacks must deal with in Europe after largely playing Australian players for the past two years, and Coles noted that he had a role – along with Aaron Smith and Sam Cane – to bring the whole side up to the level required.

“Even though we haven’t played too many tests this year we’re pretty experienced rugby players,” he said.

“We want to help the team succeed, and we’re trying to bring a bit of leadership and edge and trying to drive the team. It’s all those little things.”

Coles will also bring a bit of chat to proceedings. An obscenity used against verbose Ireland No 10 Johnny Sexton last week was picked by the referee’s microphone and promptly did the rounds on social media, but there is zero chance of Coles changing his ways.

“I’m sorry mum,” Coles said. “It was just a bit of banter. That’s the way I play, there is always a bit of banter on the field.

“[But] I’ll be looking to make sure I use some better words and not offend anyone, if I did.”

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