Talking World Cup Rugby: New Zealand have been the best team
You’d have to scratch very deep below the surface to find too many believers in a French victory.
All week, I’ve been getting e-mails and messages from pals in France suggesting that, at best, ‘Les Bleus’ might be competitive and make a game of it for 50 or 60 minutes. But none of them think France will go the whole way and push the All Blacks to the wire.
Estimates of the size of New Zealand’s likely victory vary from 12 to 25 points. Myself? I keep remembering that 1987 final at the first Rugby World Cup and New Zealand’s 29-9 win over the French. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something similar before the 60,000 sell-out crowd tomorrow night.
For me, New Zealand are superior in just about every phase. They combine immense physicality and intensity up front with speed and penetrative running in their back line. Ma’a Nonu, pictured, – nominated as one of the IRB’s players of the year – has been tremendous. He always runs straight, asks questions of the defence. And that means he frees up space for others outside him because it invariably takes two defenders to pull him down.
Outside him, Conrad Smith is a consummate footballer and Corey Jane is a solid wing defensively and a dangerous raider going forward. Behind them all, Israel Dagg has been the best running full-back at this World Cup.
It isn’t many countries who could afford to lose Dan Carter, their best player, and have injury doubts over Richie McCaw and Keiran Read yet still reach a World Cup final by playing some great rugby. New Zealand has done that and you have to acknowledge that fact.
Could the French actually win this game? I find it hard to believe. For me, no more than two of their players might actually challenge for a place in the New Zealand team. They have been riven with dissent and they clearly have no sort of relationship whatsoever with their enigmatic coach, Marc Lievremont.
So I think it would be completely incredible if out of all that, France found a performance to stop this All Blacks juggernaut. New Zealand have been the best team at this World Cup by some distance and they have played the best, the most complete rugby.
I hope they finish the job tomorrow night by playing a brand of rugby that captivates the entire watching world. It would be marvellous for the game if they finished it all off on such a high note.
Picture:Getty ImagesTagged in: All Blacks, France, New Zealand, rugby world cup
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter