x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

All Blacks favourites but have 'element of fear' of opponents France

The host nation is confident its team will win the Rugby World Cup, but the team itself has all the respect for the finalist.

New Zealand are extremely wary of France ahead of Sunday's Rugby World Cup final, even though most of the Kiwi population consider the title is already in the bag.

The host nation was on a knife edge all last week, fearful that the All Blacks' World Cup drought might be extended with another semi-final loss to Australia.

So there was a collective sigh of relief as New Zealand pummelled Australia 20-6 last Sunday.

Since then, high anxiety has been succeeded by easy confidence. The All Blacks beat France 37-17 in the pool stage, giving their fans belief that World Cup victory was a certainty this weekend.

Conrad Smith, the centre, said the All Blacks, just as they did against Australia, had "an element of fear" of France, simply because the French knocked out New Zealand in the 1999 semi-finals and 2007 quarter-finals.

"We've already talked about how good a feeling it was last week and how it'll count for nothing, no one will remember it, if we don't do the business this weekend," Smith said. "We're proud of how we played last week and we want that feeling again."

Auckland Council and the New Zealand Rugby Union reflected the country's growing confidence by quietly planning a victory parade for the All Blacks, the New Zealand Herald reported in Tuesday's edition.

That kind of planning has blown up in their faces in the past.

Victory parades were also revealed at the latter stages of the 1999 and 2007 World Cups.

Tony Woodcock, the All Blacks prop and a 2007 veteran, said the team had already discounted the pool win over France.

"It's a one-off game, and we're treating it like that," he said.