October 28, 2020

All Blacks edge France to end World Cup drought

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All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds up the Webb Ellis trophy

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — The wait is over. New Zealand is back on top at the Rugby World Cup.

The All Blacks survived the last in a string of flyhalf injuries and beat France 8-7 in a gripping final Sunday to become the third two-time champion.

Despite being the perennial favorite, New Zealand hadn’t won the World Cup since hosting and winning the inaugural tournament in 1987. Two of its biggest losses in knockout matches in the intervening 24 years were to France.

This time, the All Blacks held on.

“It’s something we’ve dreamed of for a while,” New Zealand coach Graham Henry said. Now, “we can rest in peace.”

The French had been written off after an inconsistent tournament, but produced one of their finest World Cup performances.

“I feel immensely sad and immensely proud at the same time,” France coach Marc Lievremont said. “People have always said and thought that the All Blacks were the greatest team of all time, but tonight I think it’s the France team that was great, and even immense. It’s tough to take, we needed a little bit more.”

All Blacks No. 10 Aaron Cruden limped from the field with a knee injury after 33 minutes, joining Dan Carter and Colin Slade on the sideline and putting pressure on fourth-string flyhalf Stephen Donald to help preserve New Zealand’s World Cup hopes.

France also lost its starting flyhalf, the adapted scrumhalf Morgan Parra, after only 22 minutes. He was replaced by Francois Trinh-Duc.

Donald’s international career seemed to be over when he was held responsible for New Zealand’s narrow loss to Australia in Hong Kong last year. He was about to join English club Bath when he was recalled by the All Blacks.

 

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