From the Touchline
AUCKLAND, 20 Oct. - A lighter look at Rugby World Cup 2011.
5 - The number of players in the All Blacks squad who were not born when New Zealand last won the Rugby World Cup, in 1987.
1 - France, twice beaten finalists, are the only team among the 20 at RWC 2011 who can improve on their previous best RWC finish. A number of teams have equalled their best-ever finish and New Zealand and Wales can join them.
He said it
"I think that when you take three tries against the All Blacks (in their Pool A match), even my grandmother would have known to work on those areas. I hope I am more experienced than my grandmother and that is something we have been working on."
- Didier Retière, France's forwards coach, discusses Les Bleus' plans for stopping New Zealand in Sunday's final.
Dan's still the man
Injured New Zealand fly half Dan Carter faced the media on Thursday for the first time since his surgery for the groin injury that ruled him out of the knockout stages of the World Cup.
The first question was straight to the point: “How are the nuts, Dan?”
Carter's response: “They’re not too bad, I had a good surgery and he (the doctor) kept away from them.”
Fan hopes tattoo proves half true
Kris Allen is more in need of a New Zealand win on Sunday than most All Blacks fans. After a dare during his time as a student in Dunedin, the 27-year-old has a tattoo on his right thigh declaring his beloved team back-to-back Rugby World Cup champions in 2007 and 2011.
After doing the deed three days before RWC 2007 kicked off in Paris, Allen was mortified when New Zealand were bundled out by France in the quarter-finals. “I sort of went in to hiding, I didn’t talk to anyone for three days,” he said.
But for the die-hard fan it was his team’s loss rather than the tattoo that caused the greatest pain. “I was devastated,” Allen said. “To be honest I couldn’t really care less about the tattoo. It was the loss that hurt me more. It killed me.
“The tattoo is above the stubby line because I play rugby, so it’s not like it’s super visible. It’s not like it’s across my forehead or anything.”
Allen, who has tickets to the final, is not planning on having the dates on his tattoo removed any time soon. “I’m not going to get it changed until the All Blacks win back to back World Cups so I could be waiting a long time.”
And as one of From the Touchline's eagle-eyed sub-editors noted, Allen could also lose the errant 'Grocers' apostrophe' in AB'S when he's back in the chair.
France tranquille on Haka
France's response to New Zealand's Haka at Eden Park on Sunday is likely to be less fierce than it was in 2007, when they laid down their own challenge ahead of the memorable 20-18 win that knocked the All Blacks out at the quarter-final stage.
France scored psychological points in Cardiff when, just before the Haka, they whipped off their tracksuit tops and lined up to form the tricolor, France's blue, white and red flag, to the delight of the Millennium Stadium crowd.
France apparently have no plans to do anything similar before the start of Sunday's final. "I don't think the blue, white and red stripes would contribute to destabilising them," wing Vincent Clerc said. "The response has to come from us."
Paddies pay out on All Blacks
One major Irish bookmaker, Paddy Power, is so certain Richie McCaw will hold the Webb Ellis Cup aloft on Sunday that the company is already paying out on bets placed before Wednesday for New Zealand to win.
For anyone still wanting to have a flutter, the All Blacks are 1-12 with Power to beat France in the final, with Les Bleus on offer at 6-1.
Fine weather expected for Sunday
From the Touchline's fitness expert was not amused to see sunshine return on Thursday after having to cancel a bike ride to Mission Bay that was washed out by the 42mm of rain that fell on Auckland earlier in the week.
The outlook for Sunday, fortunately, is that the weather should be just about ideal for playing and watching rugby. The Met Service forecast for Eden Park is for a temperature no lower than 12 degrees Celsius with long fine spells.
Harinordoquy makes a meal of new word
France's Imanol Harinordoquy was quick to show off his linguistic skills on Thursday when he was asked a question at a press conference, in English, about what he sees as New Zealand's weaknesses.
While the Biarritz number 8 speaks English, he did not understand the word "weaknesses". Its meaning was translated for him, and he promptly included the word in his response to the question - not once but five times.
He also displayed his grasp of the newly acquired word to joke with French journalists. When one of them asked him what France's weaknesses were, his reply was in English: "We have a lot of weaknesses."
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