Rugby: Dane Coles denies All Blacks v France test is 'season-defining' encounter

Sunday morning's (NZ time) All Blacks clash against France isn't a "season-defining" encounter, insists veteran hooker Dane Coles.

With defeats to South Africa and Ireland already recorded this year, a loss to France in Paris would be the All Blacks' third of the season - a low not seen since 2009, when Sir Graham Henry's side were beaten four times in the space of 12 months.

Named to start at hooker as one of seven changes to the starting XV, Coles insists that for him, the success of the All Blacks' 2021 campaign won't come down to the result on Sunday morning.

"It's a funny phrase isn't it?" Coles asks.

"It's definitely a big test. I think for us to finish well, we need to perform.

"It's probably up for you lads [media] to decide if it's a 'season-defining' test, but you never kind of look at that phrase and [say] 'we need to get the job done.'

"We're hurting from Ireland, so I suppose there's plenty of motivation to perform again, and perform well.

"I don't see it as a 'season-defining' test, I think it's an opportunity for us to perform, and, I suppose, improve from last week."

In a COVID-19 world, three All Blacks defeats could be somewhat understandable, given the immense physical and emotional toll that the extended 12-week tour has put on the side.

Especially when considering that Foster's side retained the Bledisloe Cup for another year, as well as won the Rugby Championship with a game to spare - and the resulting loss to South Africa coming after the silverware was already locked away.

The majority of the All Blacks' squad hasn't been home since leaving for Australia at the end of August, playing out the Rugby Championship overseas before embarking on their northern tour.

But by the All Blacks' own high standards, three losses in the year will be something Foster's men are out to avoid at all costs - especially with Sunday's Paris encounter being their final test of the year.

Coles also apologises for his own conduct during last week's 29-20 defeat to Ireland in Dublin.

In the first half, Coles took exception to Ireland captain Johnny Sexton remonstrating with referee Luke Pearce, captured by microphone's saying "F*** he's a mouthy c*** isn't he?"

The clip has naturally done the rounds on social media, with Coles' antics coming to the fore.

"That's social media isn't it?," he says.

"It's a pretty heated battle out there, and I probably shouldn't have said those words. Things go viral on Instagram and all that kind of carry on.

"I probably shouldn't have used those kinds of words, sorry mum, but it's just a bit of banter. That's the way I play, there's always a bit of banter out on the field.

"I'll be looking to make sure I use some better words and not offend anyone. If I did, I'm sorry."

Join Newshub for live updates of the All Blacks v France from 9am Sunday.