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A look at the Rugby World Cup final starting XVs

Article Published: Friday 21 October 2011
Edited by: Rugbyweek.com.
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A look at the Rugby World Cup final starting XVs

A look at the starting XVs for New Zealand and France in the Rugby World Cup on Sunday:

New Zealand

15 - Israel Dagg has made the All Blacks fullback spot his own with some superb attacking rugby and his ability under the high ball. He shredded the Australian midfield twice early in the semifinal, setting up the opening try after getting outside the defense on an angled run to the right corner before unloading for unmarked Ma'a Nonu.

14 - Cory Jane has had two outstanding games on the right wing since being reprimanded for a drunken night out after the pool stage. He was voted man-of-the-match in the semifinal win over Australia, when he was phenomenal in defusing the high kicks and counterattacking the Wallabies.

13 - Conrad Smith is a level head in midfield who is solid in defense and knows his way to the tryline.

12 - Ma'a Nonu has been a dynamic influence in the centers all season. A blockbusting runner who can offload amid tackles, and a heavy defender, Nonu is the go-to man when the All Blacks need to get over the gainline. Has been nominated for the IRB player of the year award.

11 - Richard Kahui is usually a center but has been an instant success on the left wing. Is solid in defense, looks for work in attack and has good positional sense.

10 - Aaron Cruden has been thrust into the hotseat like no other player in the tournament. Drafted into the squad to replace injured star playmaker Dan Carter, he was thrown into the starting flyhalf role when Colin Slade also sustained a tournament-ending groin injury. The 22-year-old Cruden has settled in well, organizing the backline in knockout matches against Argentina and Australia and even landing a dropped goal in the semifinal. He will be playing in his 9th test, but only third in the starting XV.

9 - Piri Weepu has been the general of the backline since Dan Carter was ruled out, taking over kicking duties and directing the back division. He leads the haka and is second only to Richie McCaw in terms of leaders within the All Blacks group. He has re-established himself as the starting scrumhalf and, for the New Zealand public at least, has become the star of the tournament.

8 - Kieran Read is a big but athletic No. 8 who enjoys running with the ball and can also be inspirational in defense. He smashed Wallabies backrower Rocky Elsom at full pace in a copybook tackle that was among the enduring images of the semifinal win over Australia.

7 - Richie McCaw has regained his status as the premier openside flanker after outplaying Australia's David Pocock in the semifinals. A three-time world player of the year, McCaw has been slowed in training by persistent foot pain but it hasn't impacted on his workrate or impact on the field. An inspirational leader, he is the most capped All Black of all time and is determined to be the first New Zealand captain since 1987 to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.

6 - Jerome Kaino has become an integral part of the All Blacks backrow with Read and McCaw for his phenomenal workrate and brute strength. He shut down Australia's best scoring chance in the semifinal by picking up strong-running Wallabies winger Digby Ioane from behind and heaving him back into the field of play.

5 - Sam Whitelock has worked his way into the starting lineup at the World Cup and has now started in eight of the last nine tests after earning most of his caps off the bench in 2010. A reliable lineout target and solid in the setpiece, he is keeping Ali Williams on the bench. He turned 23 last week and is being groomed for the future.

4 - Brad Thorn is the oldest player in the squad and one of the hardest, having played rugby league for Australia before switching to play rugby union for his native New Zealand. His no-nonsense approach, experience and physical fitness make him an integral part of the All Blacks engine room.

3 - Owen Franks has been one of the unsung heroes of the All Blacks campaign so far, packing in at tighthead beside two of the most experienced frontrowers in the tournament. The All Blacks scrum has been targeted at times in the tournament but hasn't taken a backward step.

2 - Keven Mealamu will equal Sean Fitzpatrick's record of 92 caps as an All Blacks hooker and is one of the rocks of the New Zealand pack. Does a power of work in the tight.

1 - Tony Woodcock is New Zealand's most capped test prop and is widely considered the best looseheld in international rugby. He recovered from injury to make a belated start to the test season, playing in away losses to South Africa and Australia in the Tri-Nations and starting in all six of the World Cup matches to date. He started in the 2007 quarterfinal upset loss to the French in Cardiff and will no doubt be chasing redemption for that.


15 - Maxime Medard took his try well in the quarterfinal against England, but his poor defensive kicking in the semifinal win over Wales kept his team under pressure. Medard has yet to show his true attacking ability, although he was one of few players to emerge from the shock Tonga defeat with any credibility because of his brave tackling.

14 - A fast, determined finisher, Vincent Clerc has stood out in France's stuttering backline, scoring six tries in New Zealand to take his career World Cup tally to 11. He scored a clinical try in the quarterfinal win against England, and he was on the receiving end of Sam Warburton's tip tackle that led to Warburton being red-carded in a gritty semifinal against Wales.

13 - Aurelien Rougerie has played most of his international career as a winger, and has not really been convincing in his new role at center. He has done little to spark the attack, although his strong tackling is crucial to France's midfield.

12 - Maxime Mermoz celebrated his first international try in exuberant style in the pool-stage defeat to New Zealand, but he has given little indication that he is a better option than tough-tackling David Marty.

11 - Alexis Palisson sat out the first three pool games with a back complaint and returned to make his World Cup debut in the humiliating loss to Tonga. He bounced back to set up Maxime Medard's try in the quarterfinal win against England.

10 - Morgan Parra slotted into the flyhalf role after coach Marc Lievremont preferred him to regular pivot Francois Trinh-Duc as halves partner for Dimitri Yachvili. Usually a scrumhalf, he has grown more accomplished as a backline organizer as the tournament has progressed and also filled in as goalkicker in the semifinal, scoring all of France's points from three penalties.

9 - Dimitri Yachvili put a disappointing start to the tournament behind him with an assured performance against England in the quarterfinal, where he was the best player on the field before limping off with a thigh injury. He is unlikely to take the goalkicks in the final, with flyhalf Morgan Parra likely to continue.

8 - Imanol Harinordoquy finally found his form against England in the quarterfinal, inspiring his teammates with the ferocious intensity of his tackling against his favorite opponents. He fell foul of coach Marc Lievremont's erratic team selection when he was benched for the pool games against New Zealand and Tonga - France lost both those matches.

7 - Julien Bonnaire dug deep to find his best form in the knockout stage, taking his lead from Harinordoquy and keeping England and Wales at bay with committed tackling and nonstop running. He watched the last few minutes of the Wales match from the bench, having run himself into the ground.

6 - Captain Thierry Dusautoir's cold, fixed stare as he stood in the tunnel waiting to lead his team out against England in the quarterfinal summed him up. A man of few words, Dusuatoir leads by example through his total commitment on the field and his fierce tackling.

5 - Lionel Nallet has done most of his work behind the scenes at the World Cup, rallying the players around stricken captain Thierry Dusautoir following the Tonga defeat and calling for more harmony within the squad. The veteran lock expects the final to be his last match for France.

4 - Pascal Pape did well in the lineout in the semifinal against Wales, but the way scrumhalf Mike Phillips easily sold him a dummy for Wales' try will not have gone unnoticed by New Zealand's halves. He will need to be at his driving best to test New Zealand's forwards on the back foot.

3 - Nicolas Mas' return to the side following a troublesome hamstring coincided with France's return to form. Considering he had no match practice, his battling performance against England in the quarterfinal was one of his finest.

2 - William Servat was vying for a starting place with Dimitri Szarzewski as he struggled to find his best form. But Servat reminded everyone why he is one of rugby's top hookers with a commanding performance in the first half against Wales when he was arguably the best player on the field.

1 - Jean-Baptiste Poux's brutally honest assessment of his team's terrible performance against Tonga perhaps best summed up how much he cares about wearing the French jersey with pride. Poux is nearing the end of his career, but is still a formidable adversary in the front row.


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