AUCKLAND // France expect no quarter to be given or asked when they go toe-to-toe with the New Zealand pack in the battle for forwards supremacy tomorrow's World Cup final, prop Nicolas Mas said yesterday.
New Zealand's best-selling newspaper, The Herald, led its rugby coverage yesterday with the splash "A history of Gallic brutality" above an article by former All Blacks captain Wayne Shelford headlined: "Beware the filth of the French".
Shelford, who played in the so-called "Battle of Nantes" in 1986, in which the French played very aggressively, warned his compatriots that tomorrow's opponents might resort to "desperate measures".
The French have, however, shed their reputation for ill-discipline and foul play over the past decade, and Mas said he expected both sides to be equally aggressive as they sought to win rugby's biggest prize.
"All rugby matches are aggressive and the All Blacks are aggressive," the tight-head prop said. "They are not angels, either. But that is the way the game is played."
New Zealand were eliminated from the 1999 and 2007 World Cups by French sides, and Graham Henry, the All Blacks coach, vowed there would be no complacency this time around
"This French team, we're not sure who's going to turn up," Henry said in reference to France's patchy form.
"So we've got to prepare that they're going to be the best in the world. They feel that they're not being considered in this final by a lot of people. We don't think that. We think they're a very good rugby team."