ABs keep eyes on final prize

While most of the country celebrated as if they’d won the Webb Ellis Cup last Sunday, veteran lock Brad Thorn has reminded New Zealand that the job is not done yet.

The All Blacks thumped the Wallabies 20-6 at Eden Park, but there was a lot of nerves in the build up to that game. The Kiwis in the crowd rose as one when Craig Joubert blew the final whistle, and while there was a prominent sense of elation, there was also a strong sense of relief.

Many of the local media men had described this fixture as a final of sorts, and not many people have give France a chance in the official final this coming Sunday. When speaking at a media gathering in Auckland, Thorn said it would be foolish to believe that the win is a formality.

‘Do you think anyone is going to care who won the semifinal in 2011? No-one is going to care. It’s what happens this weekend,’ said Thorn.

‘We’ve got world-class opposition coming up against us. Both teams have to prepare and we’ll see how it goes.’

The All Blacks will have a distinct advantage playing in front of a predominantly Kiwi crowd. Some said the team would choke due to the increased pressure of playing at home, but Thorn argued that the high level of local expectation has given this side a boost.

‘The New Zealand public have been huge for us, from Stewart Island to the top of the North Island. Some people say it’s like pressure, but to me it’s a lift. New Zealand people are just loving it and really want us to do well.

‘Growing up in Australia I can remember being a fan. For me in those moments when I bring my fist up to the crowd, it’s like enjoying the moment with them. It’s pretty special. Whatever happens [on Sunday] there will be a bit of sadness because this will be my last game in the black jersey. It’s a special time for me out there. It’s a good place for me to be.’

The 58-Test veteran said that New Zealand should be wary of an unpredictable French side.

‘You look at the French, as soon as that [Welsh] player went off [in the semi-final] I knew they’d struggle. They’ll come out and probably have a blinder this weekend. They’ve got an outstanding tight five, a loose trio up there with ours as best in the world, and dangerous backs.

‘I won’t be reading much [media] this week. I’m just preparing for a battle from the first minute to the 80th.’