AUCKLAND, New Zealand, October 22- New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said on Saturday he will stress the opportunity awaiting the All Blacks shortly before they go out to play France in Sunday’s World Cup final here at Eden Park.
The All Blacks are strong favourites to end their 24 years of World Cup misery and win their second Webb Ellis Trophy in a rematch of their 1987 triumph over Les Bleus at the same Auckland ground.
McCaw was asked what he would tell his players before they run out in front of a capacity 60,000 home crowd, expecting victory over a France side who reached the final despite twice losing in the pool phase, including 37-17 to New Zealand.
“It’s an opportunity. There’s absolutely nothing for granted. We’ve given ourselves a chance. Two teams on the start line and it’s making the most of that,” McCaw said.
“Everyone, regardless of what happens, knowing that they couldn’t have done any more. Putting everything that you’ve done into action. It’s as simple as that really,” the openside flanker added.
“The boys are motivated, they’re excited. But we’re up against a team that will be exactly the same and it’s about doing the job for 80 minutes.”
McCaw chided the local media for providing underdogs France with additional motivation, courtesy of a none-too-subtle attack on their wild past.
The New Zealand Herald devoted Friday’s front page of its sports section to two articles, one entitled ‘A History of Gallic Brutality’ highlighting several examples of French foul play dating back to the 1960s, and the other ‘Beware the filth of the French’, a column by former All Blacks captain Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford.
“I’ve got no doubt the French are going to play their best game and you blokes (media) have loaded the gun for them,” McCaw said.
“They’ve got players who’ve been around for a long time and they understand what it takes to win Test matches and play well and we’re expecting them to be out there doing exactly that.”
McCaw underlined his team’s hunger to finally break a run of five tournaments without the World Cup.
“We’ve got men who’ve been in situations, they’ve been around a long time and there’s a lot of desire there,” he said.
“We’ve got guys that are good enough but that guarantees nothing.
“People say who deserves what, but at the end of the day in a final it’s not about who deserves what.
“It’s about who goes and plays the best rugby on that stage, in this game, that’s what we’ve got to do.”
McCaw said he’d refused to touch the Webb Ellis Cup in the past.
“I don’t think you should touch it till you’ve earned it,” he explained.
The first All Black to play 100 Tests, a milestone he reached in this tournament, McCaw said he wanted to uphold the tradition of New Zealand captains.
“Being captain of the All Blacks, it’s a huge honour, but there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it,” said the 30-year-old McCaw, the only repeat winner of the International Rugby Board’s player of the year award.
“The expectation is that you set the standards that have been forged over a long period of time and I guess I’ve got to, along with the coaches, drive that and you’ve still got to go out and be a top player.
“I won’t be around forever but hopefully when I leave one day people will say that all the history has gone before, all the legacies that have been set have been upheld if not raised.”