RWC Final-French Evolution?


“You know they can shock us, they have done it in past World Cups and the boys just have to really understand that.” Sonny Bill Williams

Can you imagine the disbelief on the faces of the winning All Blacks if, as the final whistle blew at the 1987 Rugby World Cup final, a defeated French rugby player had fired one last shot: “24 more years mes enfants!”

 To remind us how long ago that was, other 1987 markers include PM David Lange’s famous cup of tea, the October Share market crash and, with life imitating art, Michael Douglas winning Best Actor at the ’87 Academy Awards for Wall Street.

A generation later the pursuit of Rugby’s Holy Chalice, manifest in a veritable Holy Trinity of trophies, has returned to Eden Park, a venue bulked up these days like the All Blacks ready to run out to do battle in the Rugby World Cup Final.

And a stoush it could well be, with talk of key ABs being targeted so they are less than able bodied. Former French rugby skipper and coach Pierre Berbizier once said “If you can’t take a punch, you should play table tennis.” The punches have been verbal all week in the lead up to, with few being pulled, but they’ll be for real tonight and there is still time for the tables to be turned.

The TAB bills the game The Consistent v the Unpredicable and this is what will make it a great occasion. There is nothing like the frisson of a big game involving France and New Zealand.

If you really want a French lesson from last RWC to raise your anxiety levels look at the video highlights below of the French comeback against New Zealand in the RWC 2007 quarter final after being 13 points in deficit.*

Every RWC the All Blacks must be sick of well meaning advice from a stadium of 4 million coaches. The classic was the purported fax to the All Blacks before the 1995 World Cup semi-final:“Remember that rugby is a team game; all 14 of you make sure you pass the ball to Jonah.” That didn’t work-and the wailing was terrible.

Now T-shirts reassure us that “Piri’s On, Keep Calm”. If Richie’s foot is stomped on tonight by a perfidious French boot Twitter will no doubt do a Dad’s Army  Corporal Jack Jones: “Richie’s Off, Don’t Panic!, Don’t Panic!”.

In 1987 I was at the RWC Final at Eden Park. In the amateur era you didn’t have to mortgage the house to get to the final. France met New Zealand in that big game only two years after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by French intelligence operatives (DGSE) in 1985. In 1987 it was French pride that was sunk. But don’t discount a giant evolutionary leap tonight by Le Coqs, through fair means and fowl, to revenge that defeat.

With exquisite timing  good sport French Sport Minister David Douillet this week has presented the people of Canterbury with L’Enjeu (At Stake) a 2.3-metre high, 360-kilogram resin statue, gifted by French association Les Amoureux du Rugby.* It will be placed temporarily at Rugby Park before being moved to a permanent site-maybe, if it is able to be rehabilitated after the earthquakes, the appropriately named AMI Stadium. If the ABs lose the final, in the combustible tradition of Joan of Arc the statue could be renamed Burnt at the Stake.

When it comes to key foes the Kiwi public takes fewer prisoners than Libyan rebels. Quade Cooper has been treated like he belonged to al Qaeda. But now the Wallabies have departed (and deported themselves sportingly in defeat) it’s a whole new ballgame for Kiwi pride and prejudice.

There is no doubt that the French rugby team has a certain je ne sais quoi. Insulted by its own coach* and French media to good effect and underrated by amnesiac Kiwis, Gallic guile and gall could make this a close final.

France has even piped up naval reinforcements for the final. The New Caledonian-based French frigate Vendemiaire arrived at Auckland’s Devonport Navy Base on Friday and will leave next Tuesday.* The ship was named in honour of the month of the grape harvest (22 September to 21 October in the 18th century French revolutionary calendar, so its arrival on the 21st was grape timing.

It’s not just RWC naval gazing either.  A well placed source in the driver’s seat of a Newmarket taxi suggests the frigate has been leased to whisk away three AB Coaches, disguised in frogmen’s gear, in the event of a rugby debacle. Le coq et le bulle? NZRU officials have refused to confirm or deny.

Meanwhile Rainbow Warrior (2011), a purpose-designed Greenpeace vessel, was christened this month.  It is obviously waiting for the French to leave before it sets forth.

Amid all the hype it’s hard to be humble.*  But with Kiwis  dusting off the Chicken Fricassee Recipes and at least three victory parades  already being planned, we can’t say that we haven’t been warned not to  count our chickens before they’re hatched. The French might have the last crow-see Techno Chickens  Dominoes Falling*-and then we’ll all have to eat it.

But hark-is that a faint but distinct clucking noise? John Key will be pleased. So will some long suffering spouses-see photo above.

PS If you’re reading this, good news, the world has probably not ended, unless the ABs do lose tonight. The postponed Judgement Day re-prophetised by now nonagenarian Harold Camping was supposed to happen on 21 October.* Another calendar malfunction so it’s game still on.

*Blinks  Vid  RWC Archive: France v New Zealand RWC 2007  Vid   Mac Davis and Muppet  It’s Hard To Be Humble  For rugby novices    Vid    Dominoes Techno Chickens  Apocalypse Not Again

#Lyall Lukey 23 Oct 2011 My other (bit more serious) blog 




One Response to “RWC Final-French Evolution?”

  1. 1 Helen Glover

    Hi Lyall,
    I’m still not getting your blogs via my email – Gord always forwards them to me – can you please add me to your mailing list? Thanks.
    Go the mighty ABs! Hope YouTube has some footage of the game.
    Hope all’s well with you,

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