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RWC Final - Les imprévisibles Bleus against the mighty All Blacks


The ultimate twist in the script that the Rugby World Cup draw has written for us is the repetition of the 1987 final. Twenty four years ago, in the first World Cup, hosted by New Zealand, Les Bleus of France faced the All Blacks. This weekend we will see the same battle in the final game of the competition.

France vs. New Zealand

Every twelve years France reaches the final. In 1987 they did so after an outstanding win against Australia thanks to a try from the legendary Serge Blanco in the last minute of the game. In 1999 the surprise was even bigger. New Zealand was beaten in the best match in the history of the World Cup after being fourteen points up on the scoreboard. These two victories epitomize as no other the concept of French flair, the perfect combination of rugged physicality and inspiration with the ball in the most unexpected moments that characterize French rugby. On this occasion they will fight once again for the final victory after beating Wales, but this time not so brilliantly.

In an ugly game, Les Bleus were dominated by a Welsh team that played around sixty minutes with fourteen players. Warburton’s sending-off caused controversy, but the truth is that the captain made a mistake and he was punished for it. The French just based their game plan on kicking to gain territory. Their defensive effort was good enough though, with an excellent performance from their flankers Dusatoir, Bonnaire and Harinordoquy. Despite their numerical inferiority, the Dragons were better, scored the only try of the match in a great solo run by the scrum half Phillips and could have well won the game if they had been more successful from the kicking tee. The international press was very critical with the game played by France and many experts defined their trip to the final as undeserved.

The day after the game we witnessed a new episode of the controversy between the French coach Liévremont and his players. Knowing that some of them had ignored his orders and went out to celebrate the victory he called them "spoiled brats". In his words he was trying to prevent them from repeating the mistake that he and his colleagues made twelve years earlier when, after eliminating the All Blacks in the semifinals, they partied for four days only to convincingly lose the decisive match of the tournament against Australia. Two days later he repented of what was said, but the fact is that the relationship between the coach and players is far from ideal.

By contrast, New Zealand's victory over Australia was incontestable. The Wallabies were completely outplayed and smashed by their rivals. With the intensity and desire the All Blacks showed they are almost unbeatable. Their defense was also outstanding. It is really difficult to point out someone on the winning team. The role of the three front row players was exceptional, as they were able to exploit the Australian weakness in the scrums. McCaw’s game was extraordinary, winning his particular matchup against the aspirant to his throne of best openside flanker in the world, David Pocock. Jane and Dagg reigned supreme under the high ball. Second rower Thorn imposed his physicality. And all the others collaborated in one of the grittiest performances by a rugby national team seen in a while.

The All Blacks would be worthy winners of the tournament. They have been the first in the rankings during the past four years. They have deservedly won every game they have played in the competition so far. And history has somewhat been unfair to them because they have only been able to win a World Cup, when it took place on home soil twenty-four years ago, despite being undoubtedly the best team on the planet (although many South Africans would argue about this).

Keys of the match:

• The French’s concentration at the beginning of the game. If the New Zealanders are soon up on the scoreboard they will have much of their job done.
• The fight of the third rows in open play: Dusatoir, Bonnaire and Harinordoquy against Kaino, McCaw and Read.
• The French defensive intensity. They will have to improve if they want to stand a chance against the carries of Nonu, Dagg, Smith, Jane, Kahui and Williams.
• Both teams discipline. The French are more accurate kicking the ball through the uprights.

The local press takes the victory for granted because they think that France is not able to withstand the All Blacks' power. But the French are capable of the best and the worst. They can be horrible, as they showed in the group stage or against Wales. But history says they always play a fantastic game in every edition of the World Cup. Fans and journalists from New Zealand should know this better than anyone after their experiences in 1999 and 2007. They should remember how their national team was defeated both times in games that were impossible to lose against the rival they will face in the final. Thus, despite the clear favouritism for the hosts, one advice: do not write off the unpredictable Bleus, their next superb match may be yet to come.

Chito Muñiz
BBA Universidad de Cantabria
Carleton University Business Program
Colaborador MotivaGoal

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