LONDON, England, October 25 – Fresh from guiding the All Blacks to their first World Cup title in 24 years, Graham Henry will coach the Barbarians in their November 26 match with Australia at Twickenham, organisers announced.
Henry, who earned redemption in the eyes of his compatriots after his side avenged a 2007 World Cup quarter-final defeat by France in Sunday’s final, will have a star-studded cast at his disposal against the Wallabies.
His World Cup-winning side is represented by Sonny Bill Williams, Keven Mealamu and Piri Weepu, along with two of the Springboks’ 2007 World Cup winning stars, Bryan Habana and Victor Matfield.
Two-time World Cup winners Australia were beaten by the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-finals.
Meanwhile, international media heaped generous praise on New Zealand on after they shed their hated “choker” tag and eased the pain of recent deadly disasters with a nail-biting Rugby World Cup final victory.
“Haka! That’s the sound of the All Blacks clearing their throats to win the World Cup after 24 years of choking,” said the Sydney Morning Herald’s main sports page, after the All Blacks’ narrow 8-7 win over France.
“Long dark cloud lifts as All Blacks claim World Cup,” said another Herald headline, while Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post read: “Chokers? We’re the champions”.
New Zealand’s razor-thin victory at Eden Park sparked raucous celebrations in the country of four million, which has long dominated world rugby but had failed to lift the Webb Ellis Cup since 1987.
The country was also hit by one of its worst mining disasters last November, and in February, a major earthquake in Christchurch killed 181 people and shattered infrastructure including a World Cup stadium.
And New Zealand’s rugby-mad public, who are also battling an economic slowdown, suffered an anxious six weeks before the All Blacks, hot favourites throughout, finally emerged unbeaten and holding the golden trophy.
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph called it “Black Magic” while many newspapers paid tribute to France, who defied their legion of critics to come within a whisker of causing the tournament’s greatest upset.
Mick Cleary, writing in the London Telegraph, said it was the best final yet in seven editions of the World Cup.
“The wait is over, but my word how the whole of New Zealand had to live on its nerves to see their precious All Blacks claim their first World Cup in 24 years,” he wrote.
“France were simply magnificent, from the moment they advanced on the haka in an arrow-shaped formation with the captain Thierry Dusautoir at the front, they defied every prediction that they would be a soft touch.
“They were resolute, unyielding and hell-bent on taking the game to New Zealand in the best World Cup final ever.”
British tabloid The Sun said: “Rarely has such a coveted prize been won with such an unconvincing display. But the All Blacks were the best team over the tournament, winning all their seven games.”
In Japan, which will host the World Cup in 2019, columnist Mitsuo Kamiya said authorities urgently needed to raise rugby’s profile to match the passionate support seen in New Zealand.
“Japan have missed a golden opportunity to popularise the sport,” he wrote in the Yukan Fuji tabloid. “It would be difficult to make the World Cup in Japan a success, unless the union’s executives change their mentality.”
For The Guardian’s Robert Kitson, it was simply the fear of failure that drove the All Blacks to their win.
“Some World Cups are won by a flash of genius or a moment of defensive confusion,” he wrote in the British newspaper.
“This one simply boiled down to the All Blacks’ fear of walking off their favourite field as beaten finalists in a game they were expected to win by the length of the North Island.”