Les Bleus flyer out to break duck in finale

(Rugby News Service) Thursday 20 October 2011
Les Bleus flyer out to break duck in finale
France wing Vincent Clerc celebrates his quarter-final try against England

AUCKLAND, 21 Oct. - For a man who has run international defences ragged for the best part of 10 years, France wing Vincent Clerc has one glaring omission on his rugby CV.

"I have never scored against the All Blacks," he said on Thursday.

The Toulouse flyer is the leading try-scorer at Rugby World Cup 2011 with six tries in six matches.

That has taken his international tally to 31 tries in 56 matches, with the most recent coming against England in the 19-12 quarter-final win.

"I am not sure if it is a sign of things to come but if we do not score a try, like we did against the Welsh, and we go on to become world champions, I will be delighted," Clerc said.

Clerc, 30, was part of the France side that beat the All Blacks 20-18 in a RWC 2007 quarter-final and also started Les Bleus' 27-22 victory over the Kiwis in Dunedin in 2009.

Such results mean that New Zealand remain slightly nervous about meeting a side that they view as their World Cup nemesis, despite the hosts beating France 37-17 during the pool stages.

"We know we can destabilise the All Blacks and we can do some exceptional things," Clerc said. "I experienced that in 2007 and we experienced (it) in Dunedin a few years ago, so it is a great source of inspiration for us. 

Lack of flair

"I think all the French team has under-performed in respect to the All Blacks and they have gone on to improbable victories. We will try to write French history. It is not easy but we have the tools. You can never predict what will happen."

France have been under fire from all angles for their lack of flair and imagination during the 9-8 semi-final win over Wales. 

The Welsh dominated territory and possession, whereas France relied on kicking for territory and the nerveless boot of fly half Morgan Parra, who scored all nine points with penalties.

Even so, France are in their third Rugby World Cup Final, a repeat of the inaugural decider in 1987 that the All Blacks won 29-9. They also finished second in 1999 when they lost to 35-12 to Australia.

"This is the World Cup Final and we are not here by coincidence. You can put some of it down to chance but I don't think it is coincidence,'' said Clerc.

"They have weaknesses as well and we just have to make sure we don't do any old thing. It will be a huge, huge rugby match. We will have to put the heat on them and we will have to be extremely defensive in the way we were against the Welsh."

RNS ji/sw/sg