AUCKLAND, (Reuters) – A New Zealand side forged in adversity and mindful of a history they are not allowed to forget relaxed yesterday before getting into the serious business of preparing for their first rugby World Cup final for 16 years.
The All Blacks, who have fallen in the knockout stages at the past three World Cups despite entering the tournament as favourites on each occasion, stepped up to the mark on Sunday by defeating trans-Tasman rivals Australia 20-6.
They will meet France at Eden Park on Sunday in a repeat of the inaugural World Cup final in 1987, which the All Blacks won 29-9.
“Today we are fairly relaxed, soaking it in,” lock Brad Thorn, who was at the heart of a fiercely disciplined tight five, told reporters. “Tomorrow it’s back to business. No one is going to care who won the semi-finals in 2011.”
New Zealand were beaten at the semi-final stages in their only two previous World Cup matches against Australia. They lost to South Africa in the 1995 final and have been beaten by France in a semi-final and quarter-final.
The 2007 quarter-final loss to France was a particular blow to a nation who believed that this time they had a side who would finally go all the way and the reappointment of the management team attracted some virulent criticism.