Read primed for clash of titans
October 19, 2011
Read crossed the line in the All Blacks' quarter-final with Argentina © Getty Images
New Zealand forward Kieran Read is braced for a ferocious and potentially attritional encounter with the French pack in Sunday's World Cup final.
Les Bleus have arrived at the sport's showpiece occasion despite suffering defeats against pool stage opponents New Zealand and Tonga, before struggling to subdue semi-final rivals Wales, whose captain Sam Warburton was sent off after just 18 minutes. The All Blacks are red-hot favourites to be crowned world champions at Eden Park, ending a 24-year wait for global glory, but number eight Read expects France to contest fiercely.
"It is going to be a big battle for us," Read said. "I think the French back-row has been outstanding. They have been defensively very strong, and they've also got a lot of options in their lineout with (Julien) Bonnaire and (Imanol) Harinordoquy.
"So it's definitely a big challenge for us that as a group we are pretty excited about coming up against. It is great to be playing in these types of atmospheres and occasions.
"I don't think we can really compare too much with a final of this magnitude, to be honest. I think it's exciting and you cannot just really rely on it being another week. You have got to take it as a grand final and probably the biggest game of your career, so you've got to really enjoy it and get excited by the week because it is not going to come round too often in your career."
Read and his fellow forward Ali Williams, meanwhile, have both paid tribute to the colossal support received by the All Blacks heading towards the tournament's culmination.
"It has been great to be a part of this as a player, to be able to see just how well the nation has got behind us," Read added. "It's just been unbelievable how much support they have shown towards us and towards the whole tournament."
And Williams added: "I've never seen the country like this in my life. I was there in 1995 when we had the America's Cup, and that was pretty phenomenal, but this is another world. I haven't had to pay for one breakfast at my local cafe yet, which is pretty brilliant.
"When people are roaring like they have been, you don't miss a tackle. You've got that extra half a centimetre in the stride. It's just mind-blowing the noise that is generated. It does things for you when you're playing that you can't explain."
Williams, though, is also fully aware that New Zealand cannot afford to take their eye off the ball this weekend. "If you are too relaxed then you overlook the little things, the intricacies of the game, but if you're not relaxed enough you can get too tense and you don't enjoy the moment," he said. "We are just trying to enjoy the week, because it's different to any other week that we will ever have.
"Last week's (All Blacks) performance (against Australia) won't be good enough. I don't care what you think of how the French have played in the last few weeks, they will be a completely different side.
"They will be a team that is possessed, and if we're not at that level or better then we will walk away with nothing."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
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