Two of the planet’s best sides collide in a mouthwatering match-up to begin Pool A, with both teams hoping to provide a huge early statement of their title credentials in pursuit of the famous Web Ellis Cup.
France have never previously won the World Cup but have been among the globe’s fiercest sides in the past couple of years, in which time they ended their wait of over a decade to win the Six Nations with a Grand Slam in 2022.
Standing in Fabien Galthie’s side’s way first are a Rugby Championship-winning All Blacks team that finished third four years ago as they attempted to claim three World Cups in a row, bested by dominant England in the semi-finals in Japan.
Although they were dismantled by South Africa in their final warm-up game at Twickenham, New Zealand are expected to once again be right up there with the tournament’s frontrunners.
Date, kick-off time and venue
France vs New Zealand takes place tonight on Friday September 8, 2023, with kick-off scheduled for 8:15pm BST.
The Stade de France in Paris will host the first match of the tournament after the opening ceremony, which begins at 7pm.
Where to watch France vs New Zealand
TV channel: In the UK, the game will be shown live on free-to-air channel ITV1, with coverage starting at 6:45pm.
Live stream: Fans will also be able to watch a free live stream online via the ITVX website and app.
Live blog: Follow all the action with Standard Sport’s dedicated live match blog, with rugby correspondent Nick Purewal at the ground to provide expert analysis.
France vs New Zealand team news
Controversy arose in France’s camp after influential lock Paul Willemse’s thigh injury prompted Montpellier team-mate Bastien Chalureau to be called up, despite his conviction in 2020 for a racially-motivated assault.
Fly-half Romain Ntamack was also ruled out of the World Cup after rupturing his cruciate ligaments in the warm-up match against Scotland. Loosehead prop Cyril Baille (calf) and power centre Jonathan Danty (hamstring) will both miss the opener.
Galthie starts Yoram Moefana in midfield alongside Gael Fickou with Danty out, with Matthieu Jalibert at 10. In the pack, Cameron Woki and Reda Wardi replace Willemse – who will miss the tournament altogether – and Baille. Chalureau is not in the squad, meanwhile.
Scrum-half supremo Antoine Dupont leads Les Bleus’ attack as the captain and face of this World Cup.
The All Blacks have called up lock Brodie Retallick despite his absence for this game with a knee injury while Braydon Ennor (knee) is unavailable along with wing Emoni Narawa, who will miss the whole tournament.
There are four changes in total to the starting XV from the 35-7 demolition by the Springboks, with head coach Ian Foster bringing in centre Anton Lienert-Brown, prop Nepo Laulala, hooker Codie Taylor and one-cap flanker Dalton Papalii.
Scott Barrett starts despite his sending off against South Africa, but brother Jordie is injured. Tyrel Lomax and Dane Coles miss out, with Luke Jacobson dropping to the bench.
France vs New Zealand lineups
France XV: Ramos; Penaud, Fickou, Moefana, Villiere; Jalibert, Dupont (c); Wardi, Marchand, Atonio; Woki, Flament; Cros, Ollivon, Alldritt
Replacements: Mauvaka, Gros, Aldegheri, Taofifenua, Boudehent, Lucu, Vincent, Jaminet
New Zealand: B Barrett; Jordan, Ioane, Lienert-Brown, Telea; Mo’unga, Smith; De Groot, Taylor, Laulala; Whitelock, S Barrett; Papalii, Cane (c), Savea
Replacements: Taukei’aho, Tu’ungafasi, Newell, Vaa’i, Jacobson, Christie, Havili, Fainga’anuku
France vs New Zealand prediction
Les Bleus have notoriously been rugby’s ultimate mercurial side over the decades; brilliant and dazzling one minute, befuddlingly rubbish the next.
However, with the full Parisian backing behind them, they have the guile and experience necessary to start the World Cup with an enormous win to state their title intentions.
France to win, by seven points.
Head to head (h2h) history and results
France snapped a 14-game losing streak with victory in their last meeting, an end-of-year Test in 2021.
France wins: 13
New Zealand wins: 48
France vs New Zealand latest odds
France to win: 5/6
New Zealand to win: Evens
Odds via Betfair (subject to change).