'Dark destroyer' Dusautoir: All Black-flecked World Cup memories

Tokyo (AFP) –


Ex-France skipper Thierry Dusautoir enjoys a fabled World Cup history intertwined with New Zealand and is tipping the All Blacks to win a third successive tournament in Japan.

Dusautoir, now 37, scored France's try in the tight 2011 final won 8-7 by New Zealand.

Having captained France a record 56 times in his 80 appearances, the Ivory Coast-born flanker rated that loss as his stand-out World Cup memory.

"We were close to being world champions," Dusautoir told AFP in an interview.

"Very few players have the chance to play a World Cup, even fewer a final.

"But what pleased me most was the three-week knock-out phase. It was an exceptional adventure on a human level."

The long-time Toulouse forward was quick to play down his try in that final, saying it was the result of a collective team effort.

"I was just on hand to round off that period of dominance we had," he said.

"I hadn't done the hard work. I think people remind me of it because I crossed the line but it wasn't an exceptional thing: I was lucky to score because I didn't score many in my career, especially against the All Blacks!"

Dusautoir won broader fame when he made a staggering 38 tackles in the 20-18 quarter-final victory over then-favourites New Zealand in 2007.

"All records are there to be beaten. That said, it's been 12 years!" he joked, before adding: "Given the way rugby is developing, it will certainly be beaten.

"On the other hand, we hadn't touched the ball much in that game so I wouldn't really wish another team to go through that, facing up to that non-stop attack because it was hard not just physically but also on the nerves."

- 2015 quarter-final mauling -

Dusautoir's worst World Cup memory also involves the All Blacks: his final France game ending in a chastening 62-13 defeat in the 2015 quarter-finals.

"It's a very bad memory. More than the loss, it was our attitude in the match that really disappointed me," he said.

Dusautoir urged the current France squad, bolstered by the inclusion of a raft of impressive youngsters from Top 14 giants Toulouse and Clermont, to go out and enjoy themselves.

"They have the keys in their hands to do something positive. To do so they must go with enthusiasm and make the most of an atmosphere which is not necessarily heavy or positive for the France XV," he said.

"Playing in a World Cup is not a given for everyone. There are some great players who've not played in one.

"It takes enormous effort to get there. Now, let them enjoy it -- they deserve it!"

First up for France are nemesis Argentina in the opening Pool C match in Tokyo on Saturday.

Les Bleus famously went down 17-12 to Los Pumas in the opening game of the 2007 tournament at the Stade de France, later losing again in a bitter third-place play-off match.

"The current context, however, is different," argued Dusautoir.

"The teams don't have the same background. In 2007, everyone expected the France team to win. Today, everyone expects the France team to lose.

"I hope the French manage to do to the Argentines what they managed to do back in 2007."

But Dusautoir plumped for the All Blacks to continue their run as world champions.

"After a Rugby Championship which was, let's not exaggerate, not disappointing, but not at the level we expect of the All Blacks, New Zealand still remain favourites," he said of the southern hemisphere tournament won this year by South Africa.

"I would also bet on the Springboks, while in Europe, the English and Welsh will have something to say -- they've been building their teams for the last four years, with performances that match that.

"They go into the World Cup with a lot of certainty -- it's a real strength.

"It's what we the French don't have and is maybe our weakest point. We have very good players but will we be able to construct a team in so little time?"