Fifita ready to unleash talent against France

Vaea Fifita was a stand out for the All Blacks against Argentina. Photo: Getty Images
Vaea Fifita for the All Blacks against Argentina. Photo: Getty Images
Don't be fooled by Vaea Fifita's quiet countenance.

All Black team-mate Dane Coles reckons the rookie blindside flanker is ready to unleash his freakish brand of rugby on France in the opening test of the side's European tour.

Fifita is the exception in a predictable All Black side for tomorrow's clash in Paris, having been catapulted past Liam Squire (virus) and Jerome Kaino (tour-ending knee injury) to line up for his fourth start.

The others came against Argentina (twice) and then last week against the Barbarians at Twickenham.

The 25-year-old has either been very hot or lukewarm in those outings.

His mind-blowing try from 50m out against the Pumas in New Plymouth suggested a new international star had arrived.

However, the uncanny speed and power were nowhere to be seen in the return match in Buenos Aires.

Fifita launched a couple of long-range bursts at Twickenham last week and Coles believes his Hurricanes team-mate is primed to make a statement on a bigger stage.

``I've got no doubt he'll go out and perform,'' Coles said.

``It's probably the biggest test match he's played for the All Blacks.

``He's a quiet man but he's one of those silent assassins, I suppose. Once he's on the field he's just himself and lets go and plays rugby.''

All Black management regards Fifita as a project worth persevering with.

His game still needs considerable refinement but his work in the trenches against the Baabaas showed he is improving in that regard, according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

Fifita's breaks were inevitable, given his athleticism, Foster said. But it is what he does once in the clear that still needs tweaking.

One obvious example at Twickenham was the Tongan-born player's failure to link with support with the tryline looming.

``It's a tough old thing. What do you do? Tell him to run slower?'' Foster said.

``I quite like him running fast. We've just got to be clearer what we want him to do.

``We just love his spirit when he's got the ball in his hand. We want to keep that but clearly it'd be nice to put a bit of icing on the cake at the end of it.''

Tomorrow's test

  • All Blacks: Damian McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Smith (c), Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, Kane Hames. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown.
  • France: Nans Ducuing, Teddy Thomas, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Mathieu Bastareaud, Yoann Huget, Anthony Belleau, Antoine Dupont, Louis Picamoles, Kevin Gourdon, Judicael Cancoriet, Paul Gabrillagues, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado (c), Jefferson Poirot. Reserves: Clement Maynadier, Raphael Chaume, Daniel Kotze, Paul Jedrasiak, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Francois Trinh-Duc, Damian Penaud.

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