All Blacks coach Graham Henry has named an unchanged starting line-up for Sunday’s World Cup final against France.
Unlike the 2007 tournament where the side was changed from game to game, Henry has coveted consistency and built some momentum with the existing combinations. Adam Thomson is the only change to the 22, and will replace Victor Vito on the bench.
The All Blacks boast an impressive win record under Henry, but they are yet to win a World Cup. Henry admitted that this would be a motivating factor.
‘I’ve been with a lot of these guys for a long time and although they may be ranked the leading team in the world, they’ve never been world champions,’ Henry said. ‘It would be just marvellous to have that title because they’ve had every other title that’s going in rugby apart from this one.
‘So for Richie [McCaw] and the boys I think that would be fabulous and you don’t deserve that title till you do the job. I think they’re good enough and that would be the icing on the cake.’
The All Blacks coach said the team would not underestimate France.
‘This French team, we’re not sure who’s going to turn up, quite frankly. So we’ve got to prepare that they’re going to be the best in the world. They’ve certainly got the individuals to do that, it’s just whether they can produce that as a side. All the word is that they’ve prepared well and they’re very focused and they’re enjoying the underdog tag.
‘They feel that they’re not being considered in this final by a lot of people. We don’t think that. We think they’re a very good rugby team.’
If the All Blacks win the final, they will retain their No 1 world ranking.
New Zealand – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Sonny Bill Williams.