When Ma’a Nonu galloped through to touch down a beautiful try set up be the genius of Israel Dagg, it was a moment of pure magic that sent New Zealand on their way to an outstanding semi-final victory over Australia. The host nation celebrated as though they had won the tournament – and no one in their right mind will back against the All Blacks finishing off the job in next Sunday’s final against France. But only when the deed is done can the real party begin.
Anything but an All Black victory in the Final is impossible to imagine on the evidence of the two semi-finals. That glorious early try by Nonu was one of the stand-out moments of the entire tournament and the majesty of the forward play that squeezed the life out of the Wallabies answered all the doubters who feared the All Blacks would choke again on the biggest stage in world rugby. This was the biggest test of all against their fiercest rivals.
2011 RWC Final repeat of 1987
After France held on against the 14-men of Wales in the previous day’s semi-final ruined by the controversial red card for Welsh skipper Sam Warburton, most observers regarded the Southern Hemisphere showdown as the final in all but name. But there is no room for complacency in sport – and the All Blacks know they dare not fail again.
Since winning the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 when they beat France in the Final, the All Blacks have failed to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy and back up their claims to be the world’s leading rugby national. It is a failure that has earned New Zealand the reputation of being the biggest chokers in sport. But you will get long odds on France beating the hosts this time.