After six weeks featuring 47 other fixtures, the Rugby World Cup reaches its climax when New Zealand and France meet in the final at Eden Park here on Sunday.
Fans in rugby-obsessed New Zealand are desperate for their beloved All Blacks to end a 24-year wait for a second World Cup crown since they beat France in the inaugural final, also at Eden Park, in 1987.
But France was also the last visiting team to win at Eden Park, back in 1994 when it scored the celebrated ‘try from the end of the world'.
But amidst all the speculation, Saturday saw New Zealand and France captains past and present talk more sense than many observers have managed in the days leading up to the final.
It seems almost cruel that an otherwise routinely successful side such as the All Blacks, for much of their history the benchmark for the global game, should be branded a ‘failure' as a result of repeated World Cup disappointments. Yet coach Graham Henry and captain Richie McCaw know the situation having both held their respective roles when the All Blacks suffered a shock quarterfinal loss to France four years ago.
But McCaw said the dominant emotion amongst his players was excitement rather than trepidation.
“The boys are motivated, they're excited. But we're up against a team that will be exactly the same and it's about doing the job for 80 minutes.”
Keywords: Rugby World Cup