Historically, World Cup finals have one or two tries in them, and this was no different. I’m sure many supporters were optimistic of a convincing attacking display from New Zealand, but that was never going to be true to history.
France competed like it was the biggest game of their lives, which it probably was. The one area where France had the edge in the build-up was goal-kicking, and if New Zealand had kicked their goals earlier, it would’ve been an easier victory and more comfortable.
But that said, New Zealand are the only country in the world who could win the final playing with their fourth-choice flyhalf, Stephen Donald, for 30 minutes at the end. That is truly remarkable and says all you need to know of why they deserve it.
Interestingly, both reserve flyhalves had crucial roles to play. Francois Trinh-Duc had to come on for Morgan Parra after 15 minutes, and that coincidentally did France a favour. I’ve always thought Trinh-Duc is a very good player and one of the best 10s in the world. He started the tournament poorly, but that was in a poor team – and he wasn’t the only one to blame.
His passing hasn’t been great, but his club in France, Montepellier, kick a lot in the Top 14, so he doesn’t get a chance to work on that aspect of his game as much under pressure. He’s a talent, and was very authoritative when he came on and definitely added to their attack. It’s no surprise that France’s best attacking display of the tournament came when he was on the field for an hour. His ability to run and get the backs moving was very evident.
Some say this was one of the best finals ever. It’s hard to beat 1995 and 2003, the latter being decided after 99 minutes when the teams were very evenly matched – that was a fair contest! Sunday’s final was also gripping, the result went down the wire and it had all the attributes to make it a great final.
It had skill, physicality and some of the head to head battles were intriguing. The contest between the two captains, Richie McCaw and Thierry Dusautoir, was a classic. Both guys were outstanding and difficult to separate. People won’t mind watching that again, and I’m sure in New Zealand they’re doing that. It’s like great literature, you’ll keep reading it again and again. It was surely one of the best finals.