Like any other sport, rugby has plenty of clichés and one of them is to never write off the French. It won’t apply on Sunday at Eden Park Stadium, though, and I expect New Zealand to win the Rugby World Cup final by a record margin.
A week ago, that would have been a bold prediction. Now, it seems a statement of the obvious. France’s stock has plunged further than the global finance markets, while the All Blacks look every inch the number one-ranked team in the world.
Rugby means so much in New Zealand, and the pressure on the All Blacks to win this tournament is so vast, that my usual professional detachment briefly deserted me on Sunday. Even I felt nervous ahead of the hosts’ semifinal showdown against Australia.
It was as if the nation’s expectation had manifested itself as a physically heavier atmosphere, weighing down on everyone in the Auckland area. Imagine someone pressing down on your shoulders for several seconds and then the feeling of release when they let go.
Multiply that sensation by four million and you’ll begin to understand the relief felt by the entire population here, now that the biggest obstacle to their team’s success has been overcome. Right now, all Kiwis feel they can leap tall buildings in a single bound and such is their bond with their rugby team that that optimism will surely translate itself to the players.
It’s different to the sort of complacency which has contributed to the All Blacks’ downfall at previous World Cups. It’s simply the realisation that, without tension, New Zealand play the best rugby on the planet and France will be overwhelmed.
Like any major sporting event, there is almost an army of ex-players and commentators here – but they’re all scratching their heads trying to work out how a team as bad as France has got so far. Even the French coach has described his players as “spoiled brats.”
Their attitude at the news conference before last week’s semifinals was casual and a little insolent. They lounged in their chairs chewing sweets and even threw one to a reporter who, in a desperate attempt to establish a rapport, asked what they were eating.
France became only the second side in World Cup history to lose two pool matches and still qualify for the knockout stages. Then they had the good fortune to face an England team already reeling from its off-field indiscipline. And but for Sam Warburton’s recklessness and a strict referee, Wales would surely have brought Les Bleus’ lucky run to an end.
The two most one-sided finals in Rugby World Cup history were in 1987 and 1999, when New Zealand and Australia won by 20 and 23 points respectively. On both occasions, France were the losers and don’t bet against anything less this time.
24 years are so long, too long , but not longest. remember Andy Murray, he has 79 years on his shoulder, all alone and could be longer!!
But I digress. The final match of a sport event tend to be one-sided, especially when semis are highlighted. #RWC2011 is very much the case, after full of buzz with semis which had prestigious duel, controversial referee, poignant red soldiers saga, I'm afraid the runoff will be lopsided as you expect. But the sky belongs to neither till no side. I want throb on Sunday, count on stirring resistance by Les Blues! but eventually, I confess, hope All-Blacks absolved from the curse of world cup.
apologize my stupid mistake of calculation. Murray has 75 years on his shoulder, not 79 years.... VERY SORRY!!!
Pfff I only rea pro-australian and anti-french stories on CNN. I havent read a single story about the french team here! Shame on you CNN.
wow, extremely surprised to read an article like this on CNN. you should really open your mind and try not to write a slightly racist and harsh news report.
New Zealand play great rugby, maybe even the best but France is also a world class team and beat New Zealand on numerous occasions
trying to put them down and give them a bad image on CNN is shocking :o
The French are just a bunch of arrogant, and I agree with the comment above how they have gotten so far. Just pure luck. Let the All Blacks put them in their place.
Finally a reporter not afraid to pussy foot around the fact that NZ is gonna own France in the Rugby World Cup Final 2011. GO BLACKS!
I like that wording: "..they’re all scratching their heads trying to work out how a team as bad as France has got so far. Even the French coach has described his players as “spoiled brats.”
He probably knows best since he used to coach the national football team during the world cup :-)
I agree with John: maybe the result will be the one you predict (and want), but your comment is not professional at all. Is CNN becoming sometimes a bad blog ?
Welcome back to Auckland France! we do not forget your bombing of the rainbow warrior in auckland harbour 1985.... you will see in our passion tonight for a full 80 minutes
I only watch rugby on occasions but the last time that I watched the All-Blacks play France... I am sorry to have to report to the world of English speakers that France beat the All Blacks!!!
Go ahead and Google up if you must... 2008, France beat the All Blacks in Rugby..
So don't approach France thinking that it is a sure win because it could be a sure loss instead!!
I can see how the All Blacks would be very worried rigth now whereas the French are sipping on a Chardonnay ... Go France!
Soon the All Blacks will scratch theirs heads wondering how they lost against the worst team in the universe...
I am a big all blacks fan, but find this article to be too condescending against France. Le Blues are a great team, they have beaten the All Blacks before, and if the All Blacks player approach the game with the same attitude as the writer of this article, then the All Blacks may very well loose.
You seem to forget that France beat NZ on 2 occasions in RWC recent history. Each time, they were running as total underdogs, yet they did it with style.
Go back to commenting NFL.
Very poor journalism, rehashing old clichés.
Two types of journalists in the world, those sticking their necks out to get a story & those sticking their tongues out to fill space
I thought 'journalism' was neutral. This is an outright shame. France won the game fair and square. They are in the final now, each team has a 50/50 chance of winning the game. Writting the french off in such fashion will only make their victory sweeter and loss softer!
Terrible piece of journalism, jumping on the band wagon to take part in much loved french-bashing.
France beat Wales fairly. Wales did not lose because of the red card. They lost because they were not good when it counted; you have to make the kicks. Everyone predicted France would lose to England, they didn't. Everyone predicted France would lose to Wales, they didn't – then they basically criticized France for winning! Regardless of what occurs tomorow France will be criticized. They have absolutely nothing to lose because regardless they will always be treated like dog doo. Somehow some forms of bigotry – namely Francophobia – is always tolerated and rarely confronted. Were they English or Welsh they would not be taking the criticisms and level of vitriol and baseless accusations that have been thrown at them, that would be a very safe bet!
Wow, this is great. New Zealand can only go one way - down, while the French can only go up, as they don't really expect to win. I live in France and most of the people I know here have a casual attitude toward this match. Happy they'll be if they win, but if not? Meh.
The All Blacks, however, have soooo much pressure on them to win, adding to it are "No way can New Zealand lose" articles like this one....
Hey .. even we french ask ourselves how they managed to get there but hey they are there. Sport is sport and luck is a part of it. Realism also. Overconfidence as well.
Let the players fight their match .. let the winners party. The losers lick their pride. But stop using this places as lame excuses to put forth your opinion. Why always try to get people on one side of the other ? this stupidity is exactly what rugby is not. Rugby is a gentlemens game. Let them play and respect them , even if the score difference is 90.
France will undoutbtedly have to play the game of their lives tonight, however if there is any team who can give the all blacks a scare, it is Les Bleus.
ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!!!
NZ will probably win but there's always that thing in sport : you still have to play the the game.
Obviously the article also fails to recall that France eliminated New Zealand in '99 and last time around...Someone enjoyed focusing on the negative for the sheer pleasure of it I guess.
Well, I guess it goes with the hate press campaign against Les Bleus. Even the All Black coach seemed to find a bit "too much" ; it's fine to support your team but maybe they shouldn't forget that organizing a WC is also about welcoming others...
There are still few scenarios in which France can win this final. If they can tighten the game and make it a close defensive match, little nothings can make it swing one way or the other. The other dream scenario being that France can start like devils or at least have a very hot spell at one moment, make the All Blacks doubt and sting on counters.
Anyway, good luck to both teams and everybody hoping for a great game.
The real duration of All Blacks' 'hurt' as of today's date (23 October) is actually 4 days short of 20 years. According to rugby world cup records, the All Blacks first began hurting on 27 October 1991, when they lost the semi-final of the second-ever world cup (against Australia) in Dublin. Prior to this time, there was no actual 'hurt'.
France will win this game. Voila!
Sometimes my cat wants to eat tuna but he doesnt get it.
That's one big "record margin"!! One point, French played like warriors.
yes !!!!! we won the wold cup......Well done All Blacks.....well done to the French.....they kept us on the edge of our seats........nail biting game....proud to be a kiwi :)
France showed up and on the day should have won the game.
There was no blowout.
Kiwi supporters will consider themselves lucky to be on the good side of ref decisions
All Blacks are a great team but they had a bit of luck today....
I can understand the relief across the board @ NZ after the win. Congrates to Mcraw and his boys and to the coach for job well done.
Stop criticizing the french. The french are not all arrogant or give lessons, there are good people ... It has been shown for the final that France had a soul and a beautiful soul.
For all readers:
Obviously, Alex Thomas is not American but British.
Please be sorry for him as the French Team, the so called "spoiled brats", won against his team by ....7 points!
Alex Thomas is a sports correspondent and anchor with CNN International, working out of the company’s London office. As well as reporting from the 2009 and 2010 Champions League finals, in Rome and Madrid, Alex has been CNN’s man on the ground at the Wimbledon and French Open tennis Championships, Vancouver Winter Olympics and the football World Cup in South Africa. He has also interviewed world sports celebrities like Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Padraig Harrington, Arsene Wenger, Ji-Sung Park, Michael Ballack and Serena Williams.