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New Zealand Rugby
Carter ready to face France
ESPNscrum Staff
September 21, 2011
All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter signs autographs for a fan, Christchurch, New Zealand, September 19, 2011
Carter has overcome a back injury © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Dan Carter | Marc Lievremont | Morgan Parra
Tournaments/Tours: IRB Rugby World Cup
Teams: France | New Zealand

New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter has been declared fully fit for Saturday's crucial World Cup clash with France at Eden Park.

Carter withdrew from the 83-7 thumping victory over Japan with a back complaint and assistant coach Wayne Smith on Monday stated he was still not operating at 100%. But on Tuesday forwards coach Steve Hansen revealed Carter is set to start the pivotal Pool A encounter.

"Yes, Dan's 100% fit and ready to go. It's great for the tournament, great for him and great for us," Hansen said. "He's a great player and you want your great players, in all the sides, to be available to play."

The All Blacks will also have captain Richie McCaw and fullbacks Israel Dagg and Mils Muliaina available for selection against France.

France have been criticised for selecting what has been described as a largely second-string line-up against the All Blacks, with Morgan Parra starting his first Test at fly-half. Victory would send Les Bleus into the tougher half of the quarter-final draw where Australia and South Africa are almost certain to lie in wait.

Defeat would confront them with likely knockout matches against any two of England, Ireland and Wales blocking their route to the final. France coach Marc Lievremont has been accused of picking a team to lose, but Hansen insists it remains a strong XV.

"It's a really good side and Lievremont has picked what he thinks is the best team for this game," he said. "We'll treat them with the utmost respect, as we always do. We're just preparing as if it's the best French team that they could pick."

Hansen insists the prospect of the All Blacks underperforming to manipulate a pool result is unthinkable.

"We'd get hung from the highest tree in New Zealand if we went out to lose a Test match. It's just not in our psyche," he said. "New Zealanders expect the All Blacks to go out and play the best they can, whoever it is."

Hansen reacted with amusement to the suggestion from the Wallaby camp that the anti-Australia attitude in New Zealand has gone too far. Many Wallaby fans attending Ireland's 15-6 victory at Eden Park have complained over the way they were treated by Kiwis, who left little doubt over who they were supporting.

Australia fly-half Quade Cooper has become public enemy number one in New Zealand, mainly thanks to his running on-pitch battle with All Blacks skipper McCaw.

"I really don't care what Australia think. The Aussie boys are big boys - they'll look after themselves," said Hansen. "Australia and New Zealand have got a rivalry that goes right back in history and there's a respect there for both countries. We've gone to war and fought shoulder to shoulder.

"Continually they've probably looked upon us as the big brother while we're the little brother. We want to belt them and they want to belt us. If they're suffering a bit at the moment, the little brother will be smiling and chuckling away, so we'll enjoy that while we can."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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