All Blacks unchanged for Final
October 20, 2011
Richie McCaw will lead the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup Final © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Graham Henry has named an unchanged side for Sunday's Rugby World Cup Final against France in Auckland.
Flanker Richie McCaw will lead the All Blacks into battle as they seek to defeat Les Bleus for the second time in the tournament, with a first world title since 1987 on the line.
Aaron Cruden deputises for the injured Dan Carter at fly-half once again and is paired at halfback with the influential Piri Weepu, who steered the All Blacks to victory over Australia in last weekend's semi-final and was subsequently named on the shortlist for IRB Player of the Year.
Centre Ma'a Nonu and flanker Jerome Kaino also gained nods for the sport's highest individual accolade and both start against the French, who have skipper Thierry Dusautoir among the nominees.
The only alteration to the 22 comes among the replacements, where Adam Thomson takes over from Victor Vito. The Otago flanker bagged the opening try as New Zealand cruised to a 37-17 victory against France in the Pool stages.
"Adam Thomson has played big Test match football, so he's had that experience," Henry said. "He played against the French in the first round and played well. So he's got more of a track record of playing internationals at this level. I think Victor's come a long way, so it's no reflection on his ability at all.
"This is the biggest game of the players' lives and there is obvious excitement and anticipation at what lies ahead. To be playing in the Final of the Rugby World Cup in front of our home crowd is going to be massive and a very special occasion for the team as well as our fans.
"The support the team has received from New Zealanders throughout the Tournament has been incredibly humbling and we know the country will be right behind us on Sunday night.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui; Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read
Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Adam Thomson, Andy Ellis, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game
Amy Perrett, the Australian referee who whistled the Women's Rugby World Cup final after handling only six Tests, talks to Jamie Lyall