Former New Zealand star Jerome Kaino believes that France will be the team to beat when they host the Rugby World Cup next year.
The back-row earned 81 caps for the All Blacks and was a key part of successive World Cup triumphs in 2011 and 2015.
Kaino played the latter part of his career in France, however, helping Toulouse to rise from the doldrums and become both domestic and European champions.
He retired in 2021 but has seen first hand how the French national team has been revitalised under Fabien Galthie.
“Les Bleus are favourites in my eyes,” Kaino told Midi Olympique. “Through the rugby they play, the confidence they have stored away with their recent successes and the fact that the competition is taking place on home soil. The French supporters have a great capacity to carry their team.”
Kaino has also seen how the Toulouse youngsters have developed into world-class players, including half-back duo Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack.
“Antoine Dupont is incredible. I admire his calmness under pressure. It’s the same for Romain Ntamack. They are so serene,” he said.
“Whether it’s a Top 14 final or a casual encounter, they have the same approach. And they are very professional. Each week, they seek to progress.”
By next year, New Zealand will hope to be in a position to challenge the French at the World Cup as they go head-to-head in the pool stages.
The All Blacks have endured a difficult year but Kaino isn’t concerned by their recent issues.
“The current results are not in our standards but I am not worried about all that. I know the talent of the players,” he said.
“I know Ian Foster, too. I played for a long time under him and I know he is a very good technician. Sam Cane, too, is a very good captain.
Kaino said he was ‘very happy’ to see Foster retained as head coach through to the World Cup and believes their struggles could actually prove beneficial in the long run.
“The players must be disappointed but I know they will find solutions to bounce back. The period is tough for the fans but I think the Blacks will come out stronger,” he added. “Maybe even for the World Cup.”
READ MORE: All Blacks: Former head coach insists ‘vitriol should be over’ after Ian Foster’s future was decided
The article Rugby World Cup: France ‘favourites’ but All Blacks still in the mix according to Jerome Kaino appeared first on Planetrugby.com.