| 17.1°C Dublin

Might of All Blacks to expose French and end hoodoo

The French are one part moody, one part magnificent as rugby people. There is a slight chance that the breakdown in communication and co-operation between coach Marc Lievremont and his players is all part of a grand plan to fool the world.

However, you have to make a judgement call based on the evidence before your eyes, not on a half-baked conspiracy theory. France are rightly the rankest of outsiders; New Zealand the warmest of favourites.

When second-row Lionel Nallet said, "we're trying to come together as a group", it sounded sincere and a fair reflection of where France are -- thousands of miles from home and a million miles away from top form.

It is a little too late in the month and little too like desperation to hear that Les Bleus still haven't found what they are looking for, in terms of bonding.

It is almost unbelievable that a team which has lost two Pool matches and played abysmally for all but 20 minutes -- in the first-half of their quarter-final against England -- of this tournament have managed to make the World Cup final.

Therein lies the rub. The fact that it is unpredictable France will send an ice-cold shiver down the spines of New Zealanders. Remember Twickenham in 1999. Remember The Millennium Stadium in 2007.

The French have shown an appetite for the destruction of the All Blacks, most importantly, when it has been least expected of them. Thierry Dusautoir, the man that thwarted Graham Henry four years ago, is back again.

But the Gods have been kind to the All Blacks. Okay, they lost their pivot Dan Carter and his back-up Colin Slade, but Aaron Cruden is a credible third choice.

They have also not had to face the team most likely to trouble them, South Africa, because of Australia's miracle match in the quarter-final or the finest nation from the European side of the draw, Wales.

The odds are stacked against France. New Zealand have been the best team in the world for the past two seasons. They have the all-round armoury to hobble any opponent.

They can play it fast and loose with captain Richie McCaw as the oil between backs and forwards or they can narrow their focus for their enforcers Brad Thorn and Jerome Kaino to take a grip of the game.

Surely the All Blacks will shed their own hoodoo of not having won the William Webb Ellis Trophy since the inaugural tournament in 1987. After this will come the taunt -- 'yeah, but you've never won the World Cup outside New Zealand'.

Verdict: New Zealand

New Zealand: I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, R Kahui; A Cruden, P Weepu; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, O Franks, B Thorn, S Whitelock, J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), K Read.

France: M Medard; V Clerc, A Rougerie, M Mermoz, A Palisson; M Parra, D Yachvili; JB Poux, W Servat, N Mas, P Pape, L Nallet, T Dusautoir (capt), J Bonnaire, I Harinordoquy.