AUCKLAND, 17 Oct. – As the rest of New Zealand continues to revel in the All Blacks’ semi-final victory over Australia, coach Graham Henry is trying to keep a lid on things.
The host nation booked a place in the final of Rugby World Cup 2011 with what the coach described as an “heroic” performance.
But Henry’s focus is now firmly fixed on the All Blacks’ showdown with France at Eden Park.
“I think it’s very important we come down,” the coach said. “It was a huge game on the weekend, we can’t stay up there.
“I think we’ve got to come down, get to base again, clean sheet of paper and build again for this Test match on Sunday against the French, because although they didn’t play particularly well in their semi-final, we know they’ve got the ability to play outstandingly and they’ve done that in the past.”
France only just managed to get over the line 9-8 against a Welsh side playing with 14 men, but history has taught the All Blacks how good Les Bleus can be, especially at World Cups.
“The All Blacks have had some great Test matches against the French during the last eight years,” Henry said. “Starting with that Paris Test in 2004, which was a game that put a lot of these young guys on the map and a lot of them now have played 70, 80, 100 games for the All Blacks.
“But in 2007 after beating the French by 50 points or thereabouts in a game prior to that we got beaten in the quarter-final. That’s the reality.”
It will be 24 years since France and New Zealand met in a RWC final. The All Blacks won 29-9 to become the first team to claim the Webb Ellis Cup.
But while New Zealanders will be hoping for a repeat of the 1987 finale, Henry knows his men must do more than just hope to claim the ultimate prize.
“The French team, they can be the best in the world on their day,” Henry said. “We need to start with a clean sheet of paper and build through the week, slowly, I guess increasing our clarity and increasing our attitude towards Sunday.
“If we try and do it too early I think that leads to anxiety. I think we just use the six days we’ve got to do the job properly rather than getting there too quickly and having everyone wanting to play on Thursday or Friday.
“There is a lot of history there. The boys respect the French team, they’ve got a lot of very talented players and it will be a good final.”