NEW ZEALAND (20) vs AUSTRALIA (6)
NEW ZEALAND coach Graham Henry insists his side are ready to finally banish their World Cup ‘chokers’ tag after securing a place in Sunday’s final after yesterday’s momentous victory over arch rivals Australia.
The Wallabies were never allowed within striking distance as New Zealand’s relentless defence, led by an inspired Richie McCaw playing through the pain barrier, conceded just six points to the respective boots of Quade Cooper and James O’Connor.
Ma’a Nonu had, however, already crashed over for the only try of the contest to put the hosts in command, while Piri Weepu kicked four penalties and Aaron Cruden chipped in with a drop goal to ensure a healthy gap was constantly maintained.
New Zealand will start their first final in 16 years in Auckland as overwhelming favourites against a France side who they beat 37-17 in the group stages.
The Kiwis only other World Cup victory came in the inaugural tournament back in 1987, also on home soil against Les Bleus, but in between France have held the upper-hand having won the 1999 semi-final and 2007 quarter-final but Henry is sure this All Blacks side are ready to clinch a long overdue second World Cup crown.
“The guys’ character was superb tonight. You can’t ask for more than that. The defence was outstanding,” Henry said. “It is a good feeling but the job is not done.
“It is important we understand that and we get our feet back on the ground over the next two days and build for this Test.
“We have got to come down from this game and it will take a couple of days. It is a huge game of rugby next week. We have lot of history with France at World Cups. We respect them and it will be a big game.”
Skipper McCaw (left), meanwhile, who has battled with a foot injury throughout the tournament, added: “It was awesome, we realised we had to front up and be on the job for 80 minutes. Every single man did their bit, and that’s what you’ve got to do in knockout rugby.
“We’ve got the job to do next week against France, but I’m pleased with how the guys fronted up. The intensity of the ball-carriers and at the breakdown was the key.”