Rugby World Cup 2011
France bemoan their luck
Auckland - France were left cursing the absence of a stroke or two of good fortune after losing 8-7 to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final here on Sunday.
The French had enjoyed their fair share of good fortune in getting to the final at Eden Park, qualifying from their pool despite two losses, and then posting unimpressive wins over England and 14-man Wales in the knockout phase.
But captain Thierry Dusautoir, whose outstanding defensive workrate saw him win the man-of-the-match award, said luck had finally deserted them.
"We rode our luck as much as we could, but we failed by one point," the blindside flanker said.
"We were lucky in previous rounds, but not tonight, that's the way it goes."
Indeed, France came into the climax of the tournament with many people writing them off as the worst team to have ever reached the final.
But it was a different team that took to the pitch than the dour one that scraped past the Welsh in the semi-finals.
"It's a moment we'll all remember all our lives. It's a nice story, which would have been a lot better if it had been capped with victory and the trophy," Dusautoir said.
"We just missed out. We knew it wouldn't happen again. It was a unique moment. We reached the final despite all the criticism we copped through the difficult moments getting there.
"But we were strong in our heads, which shows that playing rugby is not always about the physical aspect of things, you need mental toughness as well."
Outgoing France coach Marc Lievremont certainly had his hands full with his players throughout this six-week tournament, his public criticism of their on-field failings and off-field partying after the Wales game not sitting at all well with some and fuelling rumours of a huge rift in the camp.
But Lievremont, whose authority was essentially undercut when Philippe Saint-Andre was named as his successor in August, said he was proud of his squad.
"I'm tremendously sad but tremendously proud as well," said Lievremont. "The players made many promises to themselves and they kept their promises.
"I always said the All Blacks were the best team of all time, but tonight France were fantastic.
"It was tough, however, and we needed just a little bit more," added the former flanker, a member of the France team beaten by Australia in the 1999 World Cup final.
"At half-time we were right in the match. We said that as the match went on, go for the score and we got it. The second-half was one-way traffic."
Dusautoir added France had fallen just short in their quest for a position from which to score a match-winning drop-goal or penalty.
"We didn't do enough to get that vital penalty at the end," he said. "We gave the maximum, not just tonight but all throughout the tournament.
"Everybody was nervous, them and us. All week long we heard things, but it was 30 guys on the pitch, all scared."