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Smith wary of all French threats in Cup opener

Smith wary of all French threats in Cup opener

All BlacksSeptember 7, 2023

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith won't be falling into the trap of making his duel with the world's No. 1 player, French halfback and captain Antoine Dupont, the only focus in Saturday's (NZT) World Cup opener in Paris.

Smith said, "Antoine Dupont is an amazing athlete and player.

"He has proved in the last few years, when he's been receiving awards, that he's a key figurehead. But, I have learnt, in my time, that if you make a game around a match-up, you tend not to focus on what you need to do.

"This game is not about me against him, it is about me doing my role for the team. Defensively, obviously we will have a big eye on Dupont and what he can do, and shutting it down, but that's as a collective. They have got plenty of players around the park who are very dangerous."

Smith, who was the top-ranked halfback in world rugby at the peak of his powers, said he expected Dupont to handle the pressure of leading his side at home where the expectation was so high.

"From everything I have seen of him, he has taken it all in his stride. I am sure there is lots of pressure but that seems to help his game. The bigger the stage, he usually stands up. I hope he's feeling the pressure, but there's more than Antoine in this game. He knows he has got the whole country behind him."

Double trouble from Jonah Lomu 👏

Would be a crime not to re-live these beauties ahead of this weekend's match against France!

Re-watch this and many more iconic matches against France for free on NZR+ 👉 https://t.co/RXPOYYCOdn#AllBlacks pic.twitter.com/AneKrU29oH

— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 6, 2023

He said the All Blacks had plans to cope with him and intend to execute them.

Fullback Beauden Barrett gave Anton Lienert-Brown, the replacement for his injured brother Jordie Barrett, a vote of confidence.

"Anton is 'Mr Fixit' and versatile. Jordie is a bit down at the moment but he will bounce back, he's a very determined young man. Anton and Rieko [Ioane] have had a great week together, he has slotted back in seamlessly."

Barrett said France's replacement for Romain Ntamack at first five-eighths, Mathieu Jalibert, was 'a fabulous player.'

"He's got lots of skill and flair about him, we've been keeping an eye on him and Ntamack, Dupont and the whole team for a good few years now, and seen their development. I'm devastated for Ntamack, it's so unfortunate for him, but Jalibert is right up there in terms of world-class 10s, so he slots straight in for me."

Squad locked in 🔒#FRAvNZL #AllBlacks pic.twitter.com/fD8kU8j65x

— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 6, 2023

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