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Read keen to honour war dead on Armistice Day

© GETTY IMAGES/AFP/File / by Barnaby CHESTERMAN | Kieran Read of New Zealand is keen for his teammates to put on a good showing after their second defeat of 2017, 23-18 to Australia in Brisbane

PARIS (AFP) - 

New Zealand captain Kieran Read wants his team to honour the country's war dead with a performance befitting world champions against France on Armistice Day.

The All Blacks tackle hosts France at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, 100 years since more than 13,000 New Zealanders were killed and another 35,000 injured in fighting on the Western Front during the First World War.

"It's a great day to be playing rugby -- Armistice Day -- and it's really important for us to put in a good showing," said Read of the day in 1918 when the Great War ended on the Western Front.

"A lot of New Zealanders lost their lives and a lot of them are still (buried) here in France. We really want to respect that and we're looking forward to it."

More than 100,000 New Zealanders out of a then population of just one million served in some capacity in the First World War, with almost 17,000 dying in total across the different theatres with more than 41,000 injured.

Quite apart from marking that special occasion, Read is simply keen for his teammates to put on a good showing, particularly coming just three weeks after their second defeat of 2017, 23-18 to Australia in Brisbane.

"Our main objective is going out there and playing well," said the 107-times capped 32-year-old loose forward.

"You're not necessarily going to score heaps of tries or blow teams off the park, but you've just got to have a really good attitude and if we can see that I'm sure we'll do well."

Read acknowledged that France will pose a very different challenge to that which they faced in the recent Rugby Championship against South Africa, Australia and Argentina, in which they won all six matches with four-try bonus points before their surprise defeat to the Wallabies in a third encounter this year.

- Physical challenge -

"We're certainly going to have to front up physically. Against northern hemisphere teams our forward pack's going to be crucial -- it's a given -- and then from that, just to execute our skills, which is important.

"And being able to adapt as well, the French will certainly put pressure on us in different ways."

New Zealand have not lost to France since a 27-22 defeat in Dunedin in 2009, winning 10 straight since.

In fact since the 2007 World Cup in France, the All Blacks have only lost four times to northern hemisphere sides: to France in Dunedin, then to England at Twickenham in 2012, Ireland in Chicago last year and the British & Irish Lions in July.

After this match they will go on to face Scotland and Italy, two teams against which they have never lost.

France will have their work cut out after a spate of injuries weakened their playing resources, forcing head coach Guy Noves to pick a new and untried half-back pairing with 20-year-old scrum-half Antoine Dupont making his first start and 21-year-old Anthony Belleau given his debut at fly-half.

"It's an unknown in terms of some of their personnel but the team over the last couple of years has probably improved in how they're playing the game," added Read.

"They're certainly showing some of their old flair and willingness to throw the ball around.

"They're the team that generates the most offloads in world rugby and there's some great quick ball as well so their ruck speed is really fast.

"Look, we've just got to be prepared to defend for a long period of time and when we get our chances we can put them under pressure."

by Barnaby CHESTERMAN

© 2017 AFP