I expected this blog to be about the glory of New Zealand rugby; a poetic tribute to the majesty of the All Blacks and their record margin of victory. Instead, France produced a performance that stood up, grabbed you by the throat and demanded to be acknowledged.
Les Bleus were meant to be the chorus, the supporting cast. Instead, they stole the limelight from the intended stars of the World Cup final. The hosts were the team of the tournament but France were better at Eden Park on Sunday.
As I fly out of Auckland, more than four million New Zealanders are rightly hailing their new heroes – the country's first rugby world champions for nearly a quarter of a century. Monday's victory parade brought hundreds of thousands flooding on to the streets.
Now, the names of McCaw, Carter, Read, Kaino, Dagg, Weepu, Nonu, and their team-mates will be remembered as fondly as Kirwan, Kirk, Gallagher, Fitzpatrick, Shelford and the rest of the class of '87.
However, I am in the frighteningly large pool of ex-players, pundits and journalists who must front up and say "Je m'excuse "to France.
Sorry that we underestimated you.
Sorry we assumed the first side to lose two World Cup matches and reach the final wasn't playing very well.
Sorry we thought a split in the camp would compromise your form.
Sorry for calling you lucky.
And sorry for labelling you the worst team ever to play in a World Cup final. You weren't. You were the best runners-up in the tournament's history.
You brought the final alive when you fronted up to New Zealand's Haka. You tore into the All Blacks in a way no other team had done at this World Cup. You rattled them; you shook their belief.
But in the end you were beaten by forces even more powerful: 24 years of hurt; the collective will of a nation, an exceptional team grinding out a result in a manner they'd never had to consider before.
Destiny was on New Zealand's side but France and their exceptional captain Thierry Dusatoir strained every sinew to defy the rugby gods. It was the most courageous losing performance since America's Ryder Cup golfers last year at Celtic Manor.
La France, we salute you. As New Zealand's national paper declared on its front page: "Sweet Merci."
Most people expected France to play poorly in the final and lose, but that is simply because in many games during this world cup, they WERE poor! The least one expects of a team that reaches the WC final is to show that they deserve to be there, and that's what France did: They played very well, ran the overwhelming favorites very close... and lost. What is there to apologize about?
As an englishman who lives in america, I had no idea that France had such an excellent team.
They were amazing, and I found myself unconsciously supporting France as they played their hearts out. I have never enjoyed a World Cup more!
I think this article shows a lot of class on the part of the author, and represents New Zealand well. You are classy victors, and I salute you as well.
Vive La France! Magnifique!
Now, I will go back to being the ardent England supporter that I am.
France did not play well, New Zealand just played rubbish. If Wales were in the final instead of France then the cup would be heading for Wales at this moment!
France only looked good because the Allblacks had lost key players to injury. It was also apparent that the Allblacks form was off as well.
So it wasn't so much that France played well, it was more that France managed to look good playing a handicapped Allblacks (for reasons mentioned above).
If the Allblacks played as they did in the preceding matches the scoreline would have been painful for France. But anyway bring on the "France were great but lost because "a, b, c, etc, etc" it doesn't matter a hoot, because we all know that winners are grinners and losers make excuses.
Thanks for you tribute to les Bleus .We would also have appreciated the referee and his linesmen to be more watchful of the rules especially the off-side rules and the ensuing penalties disowned to les Bleus.
Thaks once again
'But in the end you were beaten by forces even more powerful' – yeah, the ref, who constantly pinged the French and let the Kiwis away with murder
u mean Is France owed an apology? or Are the french owed an apology?
Lobos, are you kidding me? Loosing with only 1 point from New Zealand in the world cup finals is not luck. Beating England was also luck? The French team is a good team. End of story.
@Alex Thomas: thanks for this story! Shows class.
France played well , All blacks played well
It was a great game, don't blame the ref .....it was a tuff physical, good old game of footy ! Both teams deserved to win.
That was a great match. France played their hearts out. Kudos to both teams. Personally, I thought the French played a harder, more physical, had more phases and probably should have won that game. With that said, No they didn't get screw by the referees. Candidly, I saw at least 2 sin bin violations on the French that were not called. The ref let the boys play it out. It was a bitter and nasty game that was hard fought. I could not have imagined a better final game.
In that picture, four of them remind me of Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Best team ever to lose a final? New Zealand 1995 against South Africa in extra time.Either of those teams(Remember Lomu?) were far better than either of the sides in this year´s final. The best rugby seen this year was played by Wales and Ireland. The All Blacks won.Congrats.
At the end, the Blacks ... made their point !
Good game France
Mr Thomas, thank you for that apology (ies).
Some of the things you wrote before are logical:
We actually played not very well. We had a burst of pride against England, our best enemy, but were sooo poor against Tonga it almost hurt. And I didn't like we letting go of the 1st game against New Zealand. So no need to apology for saying "Sorry we assumed the first side to lose two World Cup matches and reach the final wasn't playing very well."
Some other things were over the top, like we were lucky to beat the Wales team. Sure we were, but the Wales *are* a very good team, and it's dismissing their merit to tell that. They were good, and gave us a hell of a fight. Were we lucky? Yes, but we did manage to make the most of that. In other countries, it's pragmatism, when it's France, it's luck and the referee, right?
We won by 1 point back then, just like New Zealand beat us by one point with a little help of the referee and with some luck.
Does that mean they were lucky? Yes.
Does that makes them unworthy winners? No.
The All Blacks are the best team of the tournament, no doubt about that for me. And they gave all they had in this finale, if you ask me. It's actually because there were 2 teams fighting with all their heart on the field that it was a great finale (but maybe just me thought so). It could have been better technically, but... Oh boy, was it intense!
Should you apologize for calling our side "lucky"? Well, since it was to show how "bad" we were, maybe, but that's up to you, depends the intent behind the words.
As for underestimating us, I presume you know your history of rugby? And the old saying "a game is never won before it's been played". You should never write people off.
But... well my impression is that your wrote your previous blogs more as a fan than a journalist. I can't blame you, it's also the nature of a blog. So yeah, you probably shouldn't have written us off, I know I doubted of my Blues before, but I certainly was hoping they would be up to the fight. And they were, they certainly were. And I knew my history.
I woke up a Sunday morning, and put my TV on, and it certainly wasn't to see my team be "the worst team ever to play in a World Cup final", it was to see them win. They didn't, but made me proud.
Lievremont said it all: "Immensely sad, immensely proud".
Same feeling here.
A split in the camp? Yes, but the "spoiled brats" thing was completely misunderstood by the foreign press in my humble opinion. When I heard that, and read why, I had a smirk, and told myself, good call, Mr Lievremont, it's a wake up call. Some people just can't wake up in time, but my team did in time, if just. Rugby is not football, it's not basket, it's not supposed to be ruled by egos. It's supposed to be fair-play. A rough fight, a noble fight.
"And sorry for labeling you the worst team ever to play in a World Cup final" That apology, is deserved. And as a fan, accepted. I don't know for the players and crew, but I'm sure they'd be graceful enough to accept it. They are good boys, even if they are "spoiled brats" too. :)
And thank you, because, I'll assume you've read some of the titles and articles the media did here and in New-Zealand, under the belt, and unfair, too, before that finale. You wrote some, but you were almost light compared to what happened elsewhere. it was so typical of a french bashing. It was unprofessional sometimes, too. some articles were hard here in France against our team, but it was more normal, to criticize the play. Not that cr*p that was written by so-called journalists. You have the grace to apologize, sometimes with good reason, sometimes, well, less. Once again, I can't speak for the players, who had to bear it all, but I do forgive that. I remember being so angry when I've read these comments, and somehow, I must thank you too, because I'm sure it gave our team a natural motivation.
Then, my last call is to really congratulate New-Zealand and the All Backs for their victory, they have such a great team, holding the ball, fast, giving and generous. In France, such games are very special. And yes, maybe the referee was more generous with them, but let's not forget that other times, it was more generous with us. NZ deserves the title, but next time, we'll be there, and this time, I know we'll do our utmost to best them. :)
With total respect, and sincerely appreciating your "mea culpa",
You really need to watch a lot more rugby. A lot more. France have lived on luck for over a quarter of a century. I am not saying they have not had great teams over the years, but man, are they lucky, lucky, lucky. No apology needed, indeed your piece is so over the top. But luckily (oops, that was a pun – sorry) you are only one man opinion (unless you married a French woman and that would explain it.) Once again, France was lucky to be in the final. They are the bane of the Six Nations.
French were clearly better than the neo z. But the referee decided to give the victory to the blacks. For me the real world Champion 2011 are the french.
uhhh i don't mean to be the grammar police but CNN should have higher standards... the title "Are France owed an apology?" is completely unacceptable for any respected news media
Funny.. when you win by one point you played well, when you loose by one point the referee is to blame. Guess the Welch were not as sore losers now that the french fell to the same thing.
Human error is part of the game... let it go. You win some you loose some... it was a hell of a game and France showed it deserved to be in the final. Too bad they did not play like this all tornament.
Personally i do believe the french players deserve an apology just because everyone including the NZ primer thought the victory would be easy. That the french team had no guts to play against NZ..
But if we started asking for apologies in sports. they will never get to play ... Just change the attitude towards the game and keep it a game
Wow Mr. Thomas! After your last post you'll forgive me, but I didn't expect this. Thanks for having some journalistic honor, refreshing. Good World Cup, good final.
Who cares? It was only the Rugby World Cup. Played by colonial countries and their former colonies and nowhere else. France lost boo-hoo. New Zealand won, big whoop! Let's not pretend it's football and really matters.
Alex Thomas,your article is the very best I have read . Congrats to you and The French team on their sterling performance which richly deserved the World Cup as a reward.They played an awesome game of Rugby BUT unfortunately it was just not their day. I have always been a All Black supporter, but after performance of the magnificent men of France's, I will support them from now on. The fact that they lost by the thinnest margin in the history of World Cup finals is a great testimony to their gallant performance.
Vive Les Bleus!!!!
You don't need to apologize. We can't predict tomorrow weather. Anything could happen the next moment. We expect, dream, suspect, doubt, afraid everything you want prior to the matches, that's one of most enjoyable part of watching sport.It's a little shame northern hemisphere's another surrender to southern giants but brave Les Bleus showed it's matter of time to dethrone them. hoping for 4 years later. Congrats to New Zealand and well done France & all countries attended RWC2011!
France played well in the final, which I kind of expected given all the rubbishing they got by the media, and a lot of the fans in the week leading up to the final.
All the talk about france being the worst team to reach the final etc etc just served to put fire in their bellies. They had nothing to loose and everything to gain so its no surprise they played the best rugby of their world cup campaign. Perhaps its that France plays its best only when facing NZ?
I think actually, rather than deserving an apology from the press (esp. NZ press), who's articles at times were becoming rather embarrasing for themselves, France should be thanking them as i'm sure it gave them some massive inspiration.
In the end though, hats off to Captain Fantastic, McCaw and all the other all blacks for their discipline in the game, not giving away a penalty in the end that France were attempting to gain! Rugby isn't just about scoring flashy tries.
@Alex Thomas: just yesterday I was scrambling to find the article you wrote the other day on CNN.com stating the final would be a blowout and that the french players had no business being in the final. My intent was to ridicule your opinion and state how far off base you were, however, you have taken the high road with your "correction" and demonstrated some humility – I applaud that – it's rather refreshing.
Admittedly, I am not an avid rugby follower but did catch the second half of the match and witnessed true grit on the part of both sides, namely a few Les Bleus players. Well played on all parts.
I don't know.... "Is" they?
The Rugby World Cup was about the weaker test nations play at another level against the stronger test sides. The stronger is expected to win. This year, however, the weaker sides showed exceptional talent and skill. It was strange to see the stronger sides were excited about winning weaker sides. The real test is strength against strength. It would have been interesting to see Wales against New Zealand in the WC.
Owing French Team an appology or not is not an issue the main thing here is that All Blacks NewZelland determined to win and keep the score as it 8-7 is and they succeeded in dong that untill the end of match.
what a silly write up, France lost three times in the world cup, how can you give credit to that, the fact that the all blacks were tired beyond disbelief from the australia game they beat the french into submision just like they did the whole tournament , this journalist sounds like sour grapes to me.
Thanks. Just thanks.
Lobos you pathetic fool.
the ABS aligned against France the same team that beat Australia 20-6 last week. For your info, Australia won the Tri Nations this year – arguably the toughest competition.
So please stop commenting on a sport that you do not understand.
Vive Les Bleus !!
There's a great deal that you should be sorry for, not the least of which your not taking the 10 seconds to get the French language right. That would show more respect than your apologies which, after all, are meant for the mirror.
- thanks Alex Thomas....The French team did play better on the day. One of the only teams that can outplay the All Blacks, as we saw in 1999 & 2007. Did anyone see the faces of the All Blacks when Weepu kept missing the penalties – the pressure was immense and being the host nation makes it even harder. It was the worst World Cup however, the calls made by refs were shocking – cost South Africa a crucial quarter final game. Craig Joubert did not position himself correctly in the lineouts – twice New Zealand threw blatantly scew. Nevermind the offside calls. The "weaker" teams, i.e. Namibia, Japan, USA, Romania, Russia, etc. had sometimes 4/5 days in between games. Seriously? IRB – fixed this from the beginning. Put the three strong Southern Hempisphere teams in the same pool – South Africa, New Zealand and Australia – then we'll have a real Rugby tournament.....and give a better chance for the other nations. T
Good thing the ref. let the Kiwis get away with murder, it's life's way of compensating the world for ALL the more than many times the French got away with murder during Soccer World Cups. Go NZ! You beat them, fair and square, and the French attitude could never match up to yours if they'd won. What a classy article.
Hold on – let's not forget that France were in the final due to a poor referee decison. France only won 9-8 against the Welsh who played the majority of the game with their main prop out and also one man down. You need to honestly think what would have been the result in the final if Wales had played. And that side was playing with the heart it played through out the competition and not the side that had lost heart in the match against the Australians.
"IS" France owed an apology. Not "ARE"
Are the French owed an apology, or Are the players of the French team owed an apology would work.
It is like saying "Are the Team owed an apology"
You'd think a CNN editor would have picked this up.
Hmmmm .... Am France ode a apologie. Clearly a difficult question to phrase grammatically;
I don't know why some people don't see that France played their hart
out. No team in this world cup played like that and lost. Unlucky.
They were an inspiration, and many of us changed sides while the
game was on. I did at least. The All blacks were not in their best, and
we have seen them playing much better.
Anyway, well done mr Thomas for a true story. You did not try to take it away from the New Zealanders. They have a fantastic team.
The french threw everything at the All Blacks on sunday night the kitchen sink, the cat, the dog, the kids, the wife hell even the peugeot maybe but nothing was going to deny the All Blacks from the victory that has eluded them for so many years and yes! they just hung on for dear life in the face of adversity but thats what the All Blacks are about thats why they are the best team in the world even before the 2011 Rugby World Cup started everyone the world over where wondering if they were going to "CHOKE" this year and did we as New Zealanders asked for an apology for the 24 years of taunts jeers and redicule...NO we are a proud nation who stood against the world and it`s slander...We are New Zealanders and we don`t apologise for anything...
In my view this is not about how good or bad France was but how the greatly fancied All Blacks choked once again when it came to the big stage. Right throughout the tournament the All Blacks were the best team, they were unbeaten, beat France quite comfortably in the early stages, they were playing at home in front of a rabid supporter base. They should have beaten the French by 20 points or more. But they choked! Piri Weepu missing easy conversions, the pack going backwards much of the second half, substitutions made when there was no reason to make them. The All Blacks were lucky not to have lost and even though they came away with the win, in their heart of hearts they know they choked once again!
Stop living in the world of 'if's' and 'buts'. We can only comment on what was given. Injuries and inability of few good players is part of the given. The 1-point low score difference is not attributed to the teams (esp. ABs) not playing well. Both teams just played outstanding defense. So hail to both teams. A 1-point difference means they played a good game. It's boring to watch a 10-20 pts lead. For audience on both sides holding their breathe for the last 10 minutes goes to show that it was a beautiful game.
France dominated the scrums, the lineouts, the breakdowns and had an edge in possession. The referee saved the All Blacks by awarding them questionable penalites, probably in fear of the home crowd. The best team lost.
Apology from who? The media were the only ones predicting a blowout. Maybe you should walk over to your friend sitting at the next desk and ask him to apologise.
should it be the word "Is", not "Are"?
Kia Kaha All Blacks !
It was disappointing that despite effort our Australian team couldn't fire up enough to get closer to the Kiwis but what a bonus the French were this year. Great rugby – great result.
Indeed a good final. France was the heros of the game, doing the unaccepted. All Blacks played like winner from the start and was indeed a fabulous win even with one point- a win is a win ! This match will go down in history as the finest match ever.. thank you to france for such a good comeback and making a good final . Bravo !
The French team gave a run to the all blacks, at one point I fancied the French winning. People who thought they were bad, should take their words back in my opinion. All blacks winning by a single point tells you what an excellent opposition they had when the same team was beaten by a bigger margin at the group stage.
Rubbish article. It amazes me how neutral supporters are worse at formulating an unbiased opinion. NZ won, as expected, France lost as expected, doesn't matter how well France played really.
They might indeed deserve an apology for some of the critics that went a bit too far and were too definitive.
Nice from the writer though.
Yes, the All Blacks won but then that had already been decided long before the quarter finals. South Africa, who would have beaten the All Blacks were quietly shuffled out by the referee when they played Australia. But, I have no regrets. The victory means a lot to the Kiwis, after waiting 24 years, enduring an earthquake and being hosts.
My wife and I were in Eden Park the night the All Blacks beat Les Bleus during the group stage of the 2011 RWC. The next morning when we were walking in downtown Auckland, I met the Captain of the French side, Thierry Dusautoir. I got a picture with him and told him that Les Bleus had much more rugby to play during the RWC and not to worry about last night's defeat. In my opinion, Les Bleus' performance during the final was a thing of beauty from their counter to the Haka to their defensive effort against the All Blacks. Thierry's "man of the match" performance was well deserved, as was his selection as the IRB player of the year. ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!!!
The behavior of the French team after the match was very arrogant. If you look you will see it. Bad sportsmanship. No apology, no way.
I think the French were hopeless. Considering that the All Blacks missed like 17 odd points in kicks. The Frech got a good try through you have to say sub standard defence from the Blacks and suddenly the French thought they could win? where were they in the rest of the tournament, a side in the final that lost 3 times (Including the final) in the tournament and they played well???
The fact is the Blacks had a bad game and came very close to Choking again, but the French played for 20 minutes in the final and granted they tried hard, what about the rest of the tournament? My view is that they should not have been in the final, they simply did not deserve it. South Africa, Samoa, Australia all did more. The final was one the most boring finals I have watched ever.
French team awesome
Amazing come back after the bashing from the press
always a pleasure to watch them play when they are in their day
Viva la France
a true rugby lover
"Coulda Woulda Shoulda". Same story, after every major sports tournament. Well Bravo New Zealand. France, Wales, Aussie, S.A , Eng e.t.c. failed to win the tournament. so let them work towards 2015.
The headline of the story is in correct English you ninnies!!!!!!! The article 'are' is the right one used in this case!!!! The author is not asking if the French nation is owed an apology, he is referring to a rugby team!
Wales lost to France because of bad kicking. They could have won in spite of the red card given to their captain. They are a great team that I respect, but pressure got to the player taking the penalties (several times).
The best two teams of the tournament made it to the final and this is evident in the scores of the last four games played.
France 9, Wales 8....fantastic game, close.
NZ 20, Australia 6....pretty clear who is better the side there.
Australia 21, Wales 18.....another great game, but the team that was convincingly thumped by NZ did triumph over Wales.
NZ 8, France 7.....fantastic game, close. No other team throughout the whole tournament put NZ on the back foot for a good stretch of a match as les bleus did. France did what Australia, Argentina and others could not (not sure why I should assume Wales would have done better – no evidence to support that argument and enough to refute it really).
In the end NZ was just a wee bit better and the scoreline reflects the game, which was a hard fought contest no one predicted. Bravo NZ! 24 years of hurt has come to an end. France were welcomed back heroes in their country. Great tournament!
A well written article.very well put.being a kiwi i believe the best team won the tournament but in the final the better team lost.we did have 24 years of hurt and a nation screaming for this victory...any less incentive and i think france would have won.to me its a perfect end to a fabulous tournament
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.