New Zealand delivers reminder of who is World Cup favorite

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) The All Blacks delivered the most brutal of reminders to anyone doubting their ability to defend the Rugby World Cup title, scoring nine tries against France on Saturday in a quarterfinal record 62-13 thrashing.

Left winger Julian Savea crossed for a hat-trick of tries as New Zealand surpassed the previous record winning margin in a World Cup quarterfinal, set by South Africa in 1995 with a 42-14 win over Samoa.

”We’re going to enjoy tonight, we’ve earned the right,” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. ”We have to acknowledge to ourselves that it was special.”

New Zealand will play a semifinal next weekend against South Africa and, on this form, will be a hot favorite.

The All Blacks were questioned repeatedly this week about if they were scarred by the corresponding quarterfinal at Millennium Stadium eight years ago, when New Zealand was beaten 20-18 by France at the same stage, on the same ground.

This time, the French were 29-13 down at the break and it just got worse for them.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said losses to France in 2007 and in the 1999 semifinals had been consigned to the past.

”You realize that the intensity of a quarterfinal is up a level and we knew that without having to think back too far,” he said. ”It’s another step, but we haven’t done anything yet – all we’ve done is earn another week.”

Four years ago, France pushed New Zealand all the way in the final before losing 8-7 in Auckland. There was no stirring comeback this time.

”There were two or even three levels of difference between the sides,” France captain Thierry Dusautoir said. ”After such a defeat, after the helplessness we felt for most of the game, there’s not much left to say.”

Beleaguered Philippe Saint-Andre, who is standing down after four years as France coach, was quick to credit Hansen’s team.

”You have to show dignity in defeat, you have to congratulate New Zealand,” he said, comparing the All Blacks with the great Brazilian soccer teams. ”They are the Brazilians of rugby.”

By the end of this match, the All Blacks were chasing their own record margin against the French: which was a 61-10 defeat in 2007.

It should have happened, but center Ma’a Nonu fumbled the ball as he crossed the line minutes from fulltime.

He could afford to laugh it off.

But the Springboks won’t be smiling after edging Wales 23-19 with a late try in the corner at Twickenham.

Lock Brodie Retallick kicked off the try-scoring with a charge-down and try, and Nehe Milner-Skudder and Savea also crossed for first-half tries. No. 8 Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino scored in the second, Savea raced over for his third and replacement scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow came off the bench to add two late tries.

No. 8 Louis Picamoles scored France’s try in the first half, but his yellow card in the second half was costly.

An exchange of penalty goals preceded the Retallick try, and French flyhalf Frederic Michalak limped off, giving recalled scrumhalf Morgan Parra the kicking duties.

He slotted over his first penalty but failed with second attempt as France missed the chance to move within one point.

Four more first-half tries followed at a frenetic pace.

Milner-Skudder’s was brilliantly taken, side-stepping winger Brice Dulin with ease, surging into a gap and then beating the fullback for pace.

Dan Carter converted and then set up the third try with exquisite skill.

Carter gathered in midfield, dummied to pass, cut inside, fended off lock Pascal Pape and then found Savea with a brilliant backhand offload. Savea finished in the left corner and Carter added the extras to make it 24-6.

Picamoles scrambled over after scooping up a bouncing ball with just enough strength to get over the line for a converted score.

But it was a mistake by Picamoles that offered New Zealand more breathing space when he fumbled Carter’s towering kick.

The All Blacks reacted in a flash, the ball was moved to Retallick and he found Savea, who bumped off three defenders in a brutal display of finishing power reminiscent of All Blacks great Jonah Lomu.

France started the second half strongly before Picamoles was sin-binned for shoving McCaw in the face, and the punishment just kept on coming for the French.

Saint-Andre was jeered by the dejected French fans as his fractious coaching stint came to an end on a night when Les Bleus became Les Miserables.