Short, sharp dose of shock and awe needed
A repeat of the start against the Wallabies will help the All Blacks enormously in their quest for the Rugby World Cup crown.
If they can blow the French away in that opening, that will put doubt in their opponents’ minds and if they do that, the French might just say “we’re happy we got this far”.
I don’t think they will, but you can never be quite sure, so the All Blacks should work on getting into them early. That opening quarter will be a pivotal time in this match.
France have had three successive tough games against Tonga, England and Wales where they needed to make an enormous number of tackles and their bodies will be feeling it. There’s no question they’ll be ready for this game but their frames will feel an awful lot more fatigued if they’ve leaked some points in that period.
A fast, intense start is paramount for the All Blacks – they’ll love nothing better than starting as they did against the Wallabies. That was the best they’ve played for some time. They nullified David Pocock and took the Wallabies out of the game.
I’m sure the boys are relaxed and ready and will have a sharp little hit-out today to finalise their work.
They won’t want to let this chance go now. It will have been playing on their minds for some time and, as Brad Thorn said, they haven’t achieved anything yet, they’ve only got to the final.
Tomorrow is no different. The benchmark will be set up front where Owen Franks, Kevie Mealamu and Tony Woodcock have been immense. That trio has been enormous in their technical set-piece work and the rest of their approach around the field.
Thorn and Sam Whitelock complete the outstanding tight five group while the back row have been sensational.
The whole team has played well and shown those who think the All Blacks are just a two-man team are well off the mark.
They’ve all been on fire and if they stick to the plan and keep going hard, they will find the treasure at the end of 80 minutes.
From what I’ve heard, the French players and coach are not on the same page. Lots of my French friends who are over here have been talking about the disharmony and I must salute Thierry Dusautoir and some of the senior players who’ve been able to put their campaign back on track.
That has got them to the final, even if we think they haven’t been the most deserving. They’ve done what they needed to get to the next stage and now they’re looking for their first World Cup title.
They will only grow in confidence from their last game against Wales. They should have lost that easily, even with their man advantage. Wales had numerous chances, but it’s one thing having them and another taking them.
France got a few chances, banged over their penalties and made it to the final.
The greatest danger from the French comes in their pack. They base their game on their forwards and their backs haven’t yet played as a cohesive unit.
If they get a couple of penalties from their forward drives or even get an intercept try, that’s how they’re going to win.
All they need is something like Stirling Mortlock’s intercept try against the All Blacks in 2003 and that will give them a massive boost.
France will be in there niggling, waiting for opportunities, looking to take a risk and we will see them up flat on defence looking to make something out of little. It’s something the All Blacks have to be aware of.
They are under pressure from home, but in the camp they will feel like they’ve exceeded expectations. No one thought they’d get to the semifinals and now they’re in the shootout for the 2011 title.