March 8, 2014
New Zealand unchanged for World Cup final
New Zealand coach Graham Henry named an unchanged team for the World Cup final against France at Eden Park on Sunday, keeping faith with the same players who overwhelmed Australia to reach the global showpiece.
Henry's team beat Tri-Nations champions Australia 20-6 in last Sunday's semi-final to set up a repeat of the 1987 final, the only time the All Blacks have claimed the Webb Ellis trophy.
"I think the guys have prepared well. This is our 12th test in 14 weeks, I don't think that has happened before," Henry told reporters. "So its been pretty demanding, the constant rugby and the toll that takes on the body and mind.
"I think the biggest challenge is being astute in what you do... We can't be overly-physical at training and we haven't been.
"Hopefully we can get as full a tank as possible on Sunday. If we overdo it, we won't have that situation."
The only change to the team that accounted for the Wallabies was on the bench with the versatile Adam Thomson replacing Victor Vito in the specialist loose forward role. Thomson had been battling an ankle injury he sustained in the the 37-17 victory over France in the pool phase.
"Adam Thomson has played big match football. He had that experience in the first round, played well," Henry said.
"He has got more of a track record of playing in internationals at this level. Victor has come a long way and it's not a reflection on him at all.
"One of the guys has played big test matches before, had that experience and one of them hasn't had that experience very often."
Captain Richie McCaw will again lead the side, in his 103rd test, and will join Jerome Kaino and Keiran Read in setting a record for the most experienced loose forward combination for the All Blacks, playing their 21st test together.
McCaw, Rodney So'oialo and Jerry Collins played 20 tests together as a combination.
Keven Mealamu will also join Sean Fitzpatrick as the most capped All Blacks hooker when he makes his 92nd test appearance on Sunday. Only McCaw and fullback Mils Muliaina (100) have played more tests for the All Blacks.
"It's pretty surreal," Mealamu said of reaching the mark.
"I haven't really looked at it that way. I think this week I just have to make sure I do my job well and get a good result for the boys.
"It's come along pretty quickly, it's a cool achievement.
"Everyone knows him (Fitzpatrick) as one of the true leaders of the All Blacks. A constant professional. I'm just amazed to be able to play the same amount of tests as him."