Rugby World Cup 2011
Final two-horse race - Hansen
Steve Hansen (File)
Auckland - France's patchy form going into the Rugby World Cup final will have no bearing on what remains a two-horse race, All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen insisted Thursday.
The French lost two pool matches, against New Zealand and Tonga, before progressing as pool runners-up into the quarter-finals when they beat a lamentable England before edging 14-man Wales in the semi-finals.
And Hansen said his thoughts were not at all on his future, with many pundits claiming he will take over from head coach Graham Henry after Sunday's match, but on victory the final.
"All I'm planning for is winning a game," said Hansen, who is assistant to Henry alongside Wayne Smith, the latter looking after the backs with Hansen responsible for the forwards.
"The narrow, short-term goals are the focus. There's no room for anything else at the moment," Hansen insisted,
"It's just a total focus on getting a team ready to play really, really well as we know we're going to have to because the French will play really well.
"Like us, they've earned the right to arrive at Eden Park and play at 10:00 (SA time) on Sunday. It's a two-horse race and both teams will be doing their utmost to win it."
Hansen added: "As the tournament's built so we've built our performance. There's a genuine desire to get the job done and a hungriness for that to happen.
"There's not too many times in your life you get a chance to do something special... you've got to make sure you do it right."
And Hansen played down reports that he was in the hotseat to take over from Henry, with whom both he and Smith have overseen 102 All Blacks Tests.
"It's not even something I'm thinking about at the moment," Hansen said.
"Four years ago we got knocked out of the quarter-final of the World Cup (by France) and the three coaches made a decision to try and re-get the job and we did that, were luckily enough to be reappointed and we're going to turn up on Sunday and try to win this thing.
"I don't care what happens after Sunday night. All I'm focusing on is getting a team ready to turn up to win."
Hansen said that France coach Marc Lievremont's inclusion of prop Nicolas Mas, hooker William Servat and No 8 Imanol Harinodoquy, who all missed the 37-17 pool defeat by the All Blacks, would give the French an added dimension up front.
"It gives them experience, and experience is something that allows you to cope with pressure better," he said of the veteran trio.
"They're quality players in their own right, it will give them a little more versatility in their line-out - (Julien) Bonnaire won't be the only jumper, the scrum will probably improve, and it's the set-pieces that allow you to have a platform."
* RWC final odds on BET.CO.ZA: New Zealand vs France