New Zealand beat France for an 11th straight time last night, scoring four first-half tries and withstanding a strong comeback after the break.
France have not beaten the All Blacks at home since winning in Marseille in 2000, and anywhere since an away success in Dunedin in 2009.
But at least coach Guy Noves’ experimental side, featuring four debutants and an inventive half-back pairing, gave the tourists a bit of a fright in the second half before right winger Waisake Naholo grabbed his second try of the game in the final seconds.
New Zealand, who visit BT Murrayfield on Saturday, routed France 62-13 in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals and another hammering looked odds-on after hooker Dane Coles, Naholo, centre Ryan Crotty and flanker Sam Cane scored tries – all converted by fly-half Beauden Barrett – to lead 31-5 at half-time.
Crotty’s try gave him the distinction of scoring the 2,000th in New Zealand history.
France’s only first-half riposte was a try from Teddy Thomas. But after receiving a penalty try conceded by Sonny Bill Williams, who was sin-binned at the start of the second half, the French battled gamely back to 31-18 with half an hour left.
Thomas then had a try ruled out in the right corner, after a video review, as the momentum briefly threatened to turn under drizzly skies at Stade de France.
Recalled for the first time since that World Cup humiliation two years ago, burly centre Mathieu Bastareaud was in tears during the anthem, La Marseillaise.
France showed their intent by meeting New Zealand’s haka challenge, marching forward with arms linked before stopping in their tracks after a few metres.
Bastareaud made a thumping early tackle on Naholo, but it only briefly stemmed the wave of attacks.