HOSTS France did their billing as second favourites for the 2023 Rugby World Cup justice after a display of relentless defence and pinpoint goal kicking in a 27-13 win.
However, it might have been very different had Richie Mo’unga not left his kicking boots at the hotel as he fluffed four chances under the sticks.
The day was melting, the queues were endless, the organisation was pitiful and the opening ceremony was incomprehensible.
But the tournament exploded into life to a deafening 78,690 here in
A brilliant run from Rieko Ioane cut France in half allowing Beauden Barrett to kick cross field for a Mark Telea score in the opening minute.
Three Thomas Ramos penalties should have calmed the French jitters.
But it was only their scrum dominance led by the 160kg white shirted prop Uini Atonio, together with a thundering defensive shift led by Gael Fickou and the understated Toulouse flanker Francois Cros that kept the lethal All Blacks at bay.
The Parisian tinderbox ignited again after the break as France’s Reda Wardi looked for all money to be heading for the New Zealand line only to be held up.
From the resulting lineout, Telea repeated his first half try almost to the second as he crashed over from a long miss pass.
France needed to fire a shot and a big one at that.
The move that followed some brilliant work close to the line with Fikou crashing short and Matthieu Jalibert flying around down the short side he finally unlocked the Kiwi defence with a killer pass to send superstar wing Damian Penaud flying over in the 56th minute.
A moment later the Kiwi chaser Will Jordan took Ramos out in the air and may well have been lucky only to see a yellow card waved in his direction by ref Jaco Peyper.
Not content with taking out Ramos once, Jordan repeated the mistake 18 minutes later to leave the deadly Ramos with another shot to take the game out of New Zealand’s reach.
And France finished with a flourish as Melvin Jaminet crashed over from a Lucu kick in the dying minutes.
Watch out world, Ramos and France mean business.
The opening ceremony of the 2023 tournament was also something to remember, though not necessarily for the right reasons.
Fans labelled the opening as “so so strange” as they criticised the choreography of the ceremony.
One fan said: “Ok enough now. This is a dreadful opening ceremony. And I’ve no idea what it was about.”
A second wrote: “The French World Cup opening ceremony resembles something written and performed by your local below average dramatic society.”
“France going for the worst opening ceremony of a world cup ever,” remarked a third.
Another said: “What on earth is this opening ceremony about?! I swear, when I was 8 years old, our school productions were up to this standard. I’ll tune back in for kick off I think.”
World Rugby released a statement ahead of the ceremony in an attempt to explain it.
It read: “Rugby began thanks to an unconventional gesture: that of William Webb Ellis, a student who took the ball in his hands while playing football in 1823 and crossed the field with it, breaking the rules of the game at the time.
“The creative team behind the Opening Ceremony of Rugby World Cup 2023 have chosen to follow in this path, moving away from the usual ceremony standards, as to tell a story that goes back to the roots of French culture.
“Led by Jean Dujardin (actor and co-writer of this ceremony), some thirty individuals who embody France’s culture, as well as its art of living, recognised throughout the world, will take part.”
Regardless, it seems they had to do a bit more to impress the tentative eyes of watching Rugby enthusiasts.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/23881735/rugby-world-cup-france-new-zealand-opening-ceremony/ World Cup kicks off as France recover from horror start to shock All Blacks 27-13 after ‘strange’ opening ceremony