The countdown is on for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup which pits hosts New Zealand against the unpredictable French at Eden Park in Auckland – a repeat of the inaugural competition’s finale in 1987.
Having already beaten France in pool play The All Blacks are favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy for a second time, but the team has plenty of respect for their opponents.
New Zealand number eight Kieran Read said: “I’ve felt they’ve been outstanding, I think they’ve been really defensively strong and they’ve also got, I suppose, a lot of options in their lineout too with Bonnaire and Harinordoquy as well.’‘
Despite in-fighting, public disagreements and far from impressive performances, France made it to their third World Cup final.
Les Blues are chasing a maiden World Cup triumph though and following an indifferent display in their semi-final win over Wales and two pool defeats Marc Lievremont’s men head into the game as underdogs.
“I think of the history of French rugby and even if certain disagree it’s full of difficult matches. Some of them won with courage like last week (against Wales) and some have been more glorious. We are nonetheless in the final now and if we have to play like we did against Wales to win then we’ll do so,” said Lievremont.
While Lievremont looks to end his spell at the helm of France showered in World Cup glory, the All Blacks will be, like in 1987, keener than ever to live up to their tag as World Cup favourites.