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From merde to magnifique . . .

HERE are a dozen foolproof reasons why the French Mutineers will throw logic on its head and the All Blacks on their gluteus maximi - aka their arses - before scampering away from New Zealand with the Webb Ellis Cup in their carry-on luggage.

1. Because they employ the craziest national coach in world sport since ... well, since that mad professor, Raymond Domenech, was in alleged charge of the French soccer team, selecting players based on their star signs and showing a particular distrust of Scorpios and Leos.

2. Because it's a long-established truism that France can't turn it on in consecutive games. Ergo, given their blessed escape to victory over Wales, the inverse is bound to apply this weekend.

3. Because the All Blacks will suffer an ill-timed bout of food poisoning on the eve of the final (in suspicious echoes of '95). Entirely their own fault, of course: complimentary deliveries of snails and frogs' legs should be distrusted even more than Scorpios.

4. Because aforementioned manager Marc Lievremont, with his preposterous pencil moustache, clearly thinks he is Errol Flynn in disguise. Flynn was the original Robin Hood, so expect the swashbuckling French to put New Zealand to the sword (boom boom!) on Sunday ... either that or they'll complete the unlikeliest tale of highway robbery in rugby history.

5. Because Lievremont has just told those players who broke curfew after the Wales win that they are a "bunch of spoiled brats. Undisciplined, disobedient, sometimes selfish. Always complaining. And it's been like this for four years." In other words, he is just what rugby needs: Brian Clough reincarnate. Expect a thrilling riposte from his less than gruntled players.

6. Because Lievremont, so often the proverbial Tinkerman, has responded to that brutal performance against 14 Welshmen by ... naming an unchanged team for the final! By this stage, the All Blacks will either be totally bemused or consumed by their own arrogance. Hmmm, we must ask Blackadder for the French translation of "cunning plan" ...

7. Because, clearly, the French have learned from the previous mistakes of their fellow Frogs, Anelka et al, when it comes to player mutinies at a World Cup. So there's trouble in the camp? C'est okay. Just pretend that you're getting on with the job instead of actually imploding in front of the cameras.

8. Because they play with two scrum-halves. So very idiosyncratic. So very French.

9. Because even the supposedly angelic ones (anyone care to mention Thierry Henry?) will show themselves to be the ultimate sneak when the chance presents itself.

10. The ghost of Dan Carter, the best number 10 in the world.

11. The ghost of previous All Black cock-ups on the World Cup stage, when the best team of the previous three-and-a-half years flunked when it mattered most.

12. Because, at the "denouement" of the day, every puntastic headline-writer in the English-speaking world knows/prays that all French rugby teams possess a certain "je ne sais quoi" that makes it entirely logical for them to be "merde" in a semi-final and "magnifique" in the final, leaving the shellshocked All Blacks to conclude: "Zut alors!"