No chance for France
Stuart Barnes says that New Zealand will overpower France, even if they starve the All Blacks of the ball!
Last Updated: 21/10/11 12:00pm
Stuart Barnes believes that New Zealand's pace and power will be too much for France - even if they starve the All Blacks of the ball!
Excitement is growing in New Zealand as the host nation attempts to get their hands on the Webb Ellis trophy again - 24 years after they first won it.
For a country that has gone into every World Cup since 1987 as the favourites (bar 2003), New Zealand has fallen short time and time again and in the last six weeks have been reluctant admit to the favourite tags once again.
"There has been a massive change in New Zealand," said Barnes on the Rugby Club.
"For six weeks we have been hearing that they are not going to win this World Cup, and that they just hope it is a great tournament and that the rest of the world enjoy it.
"Now the nerves have drifted south to the Antarctic and the general feeling is that it is New Zealand's to lose. They got the opponents they wanted in France, the referee they wanted in Craig Joubert and they got the venue they needed in Eden Park. Everyone thinks that New Zealand will win this game.
"However I don't think that the All Blacks will have any complacency at all, they have had so many heartbreaks. Graham Henry would have them ready for this," added Barnes.
"People have been saying that in England there is a bit of arrogance with our players saying 'look at us - we are professional'.
"That is not the case in New Zealand - these guys are great professionals but they are very level-headed men. I cannot see there is any way, shape or form - with Richie McCaw as captain and Graham Henry coaching - that this team that they will let themselves down."
Barnes also said that Aaron Cruden has taken his chances very well after injuries to star Dan Carter and his deputy Colin Slade meant that Cruden became first choice for the No.10 jersey.
"He did really well but there are a few things that need to be said," explained Barnes.
"Against Australia they were on the front foot which made it very easy for Cruden. It was perfect ball for a youngster like Cruden, his natural game is a running, fast-flowing game. New Zealand made it very easy for him and when he was given the opportunity he took it well. I thought his drop goal was very mature moment. He is a confidence player and he is extremely confident."
One chance for France
Despite losing to New Zealand and Tonga in the pool games, France have still battled their way into the final, but Barnes cannot see them having the game plan to disrupt New Zealand - even if they do have a very good lineout.
"France are in the final and will try and win this game and there is only one way they can beat the All Blacks," said the former England and Bath man.
"That is to squeeze the life out of them. We said last week against Wales that the lineout would be the key and so it proved. We thought they would go Imanol Harinordoquy and Julien Bonnaire at the tail and try and get the ball into the midfield and outflank Wales that way.
"This week that would be madness; the faster the tempo of the game the more it plays into New Zealand's hands. I think Pascal Pape and Lionel Nallet, who has been magnificent throughout, will be key men in the front and the middle of the lineout. I think it will be catch and drive and try and really work the New Zealand forwards' legs. New Zealand are superior in every aspect except in the tight and maybe goal kicking.
"So France will look for a slow game, kick for touch and look for some penalties with Morgan Parra or Dimitri Yachvili kicking their goals. Piri Weepu may be a little nervous in that department. That is the one and only hope for France. I will be stunned if they try and play any rugby.
"I think France are the worst World Cup finalists we have seen since the inception of this tournament. They do have a lineout game and even if New Zealand only get scraps of ball, they will destroy France with the pace of their game. Everything points to a New Zealand win and I will be surprised if they don't win by a 20 points plus margin."