France prove themselves worthy finalists
AUCKLAND, 23 Oct. - France proved themselves worthy finalists by pushing New Zealand all the way in the Rugby World Cup 2011 Final on Sunday night.
Les Bleus had been heavily criticised, with some pundits even saying they did not deserve to be in the finale after a narrow semi-final win over Wales and two pool stage defeats.
But Marc Lièvremont's team gave the All Blacks an almighty scare before the hosts held on for an 8-7 win to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time since 1987.
"We showed that France deserved their spot in the final," said captain Thierry Dusautoir, who launched France's fightback from 8-0 down with a 48th-minute try.
The All Blacks agreed. "It was extraordinary. The French team came out to play and they definitely did that. They showed what they were capable of," said New Zealand scrum half Piri Weepu.
World War Three
All Blacks second row warrior Brad Thorn, the oldest player to contest a RWC Final, said: "They should be so proud of themselves, those Frenchmen."
Full back Israel Dagg added: "It was World War Three out there. France put everything on the line and they played the whole 80 minutes."
While this France side did not show the flamboyance some of their compatriot predecessors were famous for, they displayed strong defence and resilience.
"It was really close," said Les Bleus flanker Julien Bonnaire. "We can hold our heads high at the end of this World Cup. We gave it our all, just as we said we would."
Scrum half Dimitri Yachvili, whose kicking was instrumental in getting his team to the Final, said the squad could return to France with their heads held high.
"We thought before the game that we should give everything so that we would not have any regrets," he said. "It was close. We stuck together.
"We are disappointed we did not make it, but we are proud of ourselves. We really want to go back home now and meet our families."