Freeley Speaking
An English tourist casts an eye on the Rugby World Cup

Freeley Speaking: All Blacks on the edge of history

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Track Mitch's Rugby World Cup adventures with his touring Twitter account: @NotSweetChariot

The hopes of four million New Zealanders will go with the All Blacks into tonight's Rugby World Cup final. Photo / Greg Bowker
The hopes of four million New Zealanders will go with the All Blacks into tonight's Rugby World Cup final. Photo / Greg Bowker

So after 2,230 points, 47 games and 20 disciplinary cards shown, it's down to the Rugby World Cup final in Auckland.

I have taken pulse checks on a pretty regular basis on how New Zealand is coping with differing World Cup issues. From students to shopkeepers, I have had plenty of opinions ranging from the not-so-crunch semi-final, all the way back to the start of the tournament, on the chances of the All Blacks winning the Webb Ellis Cup.

So I thought, what better than to catch up with as many people that I could with a score prediction via Twitter. I have been contacted by plenty of passionate Kiwi and French fans eager to look into their virtual crystal ball to predict tonight's score.

Understandably the All Blacks received the greatest support, with the vast majority of predictions going for an All Blacks win. However I did receive a couple of e-mails from French fans, going for a French victory against the odds (some bookies are placing France at 6.50 to win outright).

One such E-mail came from Frenchman Ivallio Raminov, who was born in Marseille and was backing Les Bleus.

"It will be unlikely but a French win on Sunday would be from one of the most reluctant winning teams in Rugby World Cup history. We have battled our way this far and we also have that win in Cardiff a few years ago on our side that I think is a big mental plus."

When asked about the pool match, Ivallio was reluctant to look back on the 37-17 defeat.

"You can't think about the pool results now, we have beaten England and Wales to get here, It's just one game and we will have improved since then no doubt."

The faith is also shared by French coach Marc Lievremont: "Every time we play the All Blacks it's always the same - they are always the favourites, but I believe in our team and we can win."

Dimitri Yachvili and Morgan Parra will undoubtedly be the men to watch for the French, as they are Les Bleus' leading point takers at the Rugby World Cup. In a tournament where the kicking has been poor, these two have played well with Parra's three penalties the difference in the semi-final against the Welsh.

The French, understandably, have kept the same side that beat the plucky Welsh side last weekend.

On the other hand I was flooded by Kiwi fans with bold predictions for the final, many giving scores around the high 20s to low 30s mark, convinced that the All Blacks will record a similar result from the pool match.

Though some New Zealanders are now convinced that history will repeat itself from the glory of 1987 final, the result is certainly not guaranteed and Dunedin student Liam Farley was eager to point this out.

"The All Blacks need to focus above all else on Sunday, some of my mates acted like we won it after the Australia game. We are on the edge of history, so must keep it tight.

"It's positive that we have kept the same side for the final."

Piri Weepu, who is shortlisted for the World player of the year, was clear that the build up needs to be relaxed yet focused for the All Blacks.

"If you take it too seriously you'll already have played the game in your head at the start of the week. You need to have a clear head on Sunday, because the more relaxed a state you are in, the better game you play."

I can only imagine the excitement in New Zealand is now reaching fever pitch before the All Blacks step out at Eden Park. I just hope that the flood of Kiwi predictions I received are correct. If the All Blacks hit the blocks running just like the semi-final, I think 4 million people in a certain southern hemisphere country might be having a little celebration.

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