Gregor Paul on rugby

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: NZ, a little humility would be nice

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NZ supporters in the Hastings Fanzone at the Hawkes Bay Opera House cheer at the final whistle as NZ win the second Rugby World cup semi-final. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today
NZ supporters in the Hastings Fanzone at the Hawkes Bay Opera House cheer at the final whistle as NZ win the second Rugby World cup semi-final. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today

Thankfully the All Blacks are about the only people in New Zealand not a touch complacent right now.

Everyone else it seems has already decided the final has been won with others going as far to label the French as the worst finalists of all time.

Such views are starting to grate. Not because the French are enigmatic and unpredictable and capable of an upset; in all honesty this lot probably don't have it in them to pull off the unthinkable.

It grates because it comes across as needlessly arrogant and disrespectful especially when predictions are made about the likelihood of a 20-points-plus victory. Imagine the outrage if it were the English or Australians talking with such premature confidence?

It's difficult to understand the logic of branding the French an undeserving finalist. There is no such thing - the point of the World Cup is to win games and progress to the final.

The French have done that and yet they are less deserving than the All Blacks to be there? How does that make sense?

It's possibly been New Zealand's undoing in the past that they have been confused as to whether World Cups are judged on style or substance. For the record World Cups are simply about progression by any means.

Teams try to progress from their pool and then progress through the knock-out rounds. How that is achieved is immaterial and it's worth reiterating that it wasn't the French players who sent off Welsh captain Sam Warburton. It wasn't their choice to play against 14 men in the semi-final and again, just for the record, for those who say the rules are clear - they actually aren't. They are clear when the aggressor obviously commits a tip tackle and drives a player into the ground. They are not so clear when the tackler pulls out of the tackle once the man is airborne - as Warburton appeared to be doing.

But still, right or wrong, it was Alain Rolland who pulled out the red card and what could France do? So they weren't convincing and lacked direction and ideas. They still won and that kind of really is the point and it would be nice if a little humility could now be forthcoming from the hosts.

Winning with grace is maybe more important than losing with grace. It is probable that the All Blacks will get the job done on Sunday night - they stack as the better team on most, if not all fronts. We all believe that yet we don't have to flaunt it - we don't need to be quite so crass and blunt and unpleasantly adamant.

After all, it was that overconfidence and certainty displayed by the Wallabies after their win in Hong Kong that so got up the All Blacks' noses. One last thing for the record, the Wallabies took their semi-final defeat in precisely the right spirit - they were humble, generous and even supportive of the All Blacks in regards to the final - qualities that had previously been lacking.

New Zealanders could maybe learn something from them. Boastful, uber-confidence is not the Kiwi way.

- Herald on Sunday

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