Rugby World Cup 2011 Preview: All Blacks Will Win Final in Emphatic Fashion
After four years of preparation, 40 pool games, two weeks of sudden death knockout games, we are finally down to just two teams.
The All Blacks meet France on Sunday in a game that will decide who gets to wear the title of world champions for the next four years.
Both teams have followed very different roads to the Final, with the All Blacks playing some great rugby along the way, while the French will be slightly surprised to find themselves where they are given the way they have played.
The fact that they are in the final is quite astonishing really. They were comprehensively beaten by the All Blacks in pool play, lost to Tonga, and only got the better of Japan and Canada in the last 10 minutes of both games.
In fact, had it not been for Tonga's blunders in the last 10 minutes against Canada, they wouldn't have even made it past the pool stage. They progressed on to play an England side who have looked rubbish all tournament and wouldn't have made the quarterfinals had they been in any other pool.
The semifinals saw them narrowly beat a Welsh team reduced to 14 men for most of the game. That was won more due to Wales failure to kick goals than France's brilliance.
And after all that they find themselves in the Final, to take on the red hot favourite All Blacks.
Of course, it would be foolish to write the French off. Look at what they were capable of producing in 1999 and 2007 against the All Blacks after looking decidedly average.
Even at halftime of both these games, it seemed the All Blacks would run out convincing winners. Yet, it was France who walked away with the victory on both occasions.
Why then is it such popular opinion that the All Blacks will cruise home on Sunday night?
Who will win the Rugby World Cup Final?
Simply put, there is no way the they will lose. This All Blacks team is just too good and they want it too much.
In both 1999 and 2007, the team looked flat and took the foot off the accelerator, giving the French a sniff, which is deadly. But this team is different.
They will be up for anything, as was shown by their win over Australia where they defended and defended, even in the last minute with the Australians pressing, the All Blacks stayed strong. It speaks volumes about the motivation of this side.
France on the other hand, seemed content with holding Wales out in the second half, much the same trap the All Blacks have fell into in past World Cups.
The game itself will be decided up front. Both teams have excellent loose-forward trio's which will be key. But to make these men effective, dominance up front is imperative, which is where the tight five becomes crucial.
France won't be a push over in this department. But it's just hard to see anything getting the better of this All Black tight five that has contributed so heavily to their successes in recent years.
If this dominance is gained, the All Blacks will be able to unleash their dangerous back line and will be too much to contain.
Defensively the All Blacks are too strong to try to break numerous times and France's only hope remains in holding them out and sneaking one or two tries.
But realistically, it seems unlikely, especially on the back of the five try rout they received just four weeks earlier, which saw them fall off too many tackles to expect to win.
While a win will suffice, the feeling in New Zealand is that they want a good win. Many people have stated that they would like to see the All Blacks win by 20 points or more, which will leave no doubt in anyone's mind who the better team is.
It's been 24 years. But if all the signs are right, it's only going to be another three days before the All Blacks finally recapture the trophy that has eluded them for so long.
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