Rugby World Cup 2011
Unchanged XV for All Blacks
Graham Henry (File)
Auckland - New Zealand will rely on the same starting XV which beat Australia in the semi-finals to try to end their long Rugby World Cup drought in Sunday's final against France.
Click to BUY the Rugby in our blood book
Coach Graham Henry announced only one change in the 22-man squad - versatile Adam Thomson replacing Victor Vito in the specialist loose forward role - for the final at Eden Park in which New Zealand will attempt to win the William Webb Ellis Trophy for the first time since 1987.
Richie McCaw, playing his 102nd Test, will lead a starting XV which has a combined 708 Test caps. He will combine with Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino in the backrow for the 21st Test, an All Black record for a loose forward trio.
"This is the biggest game of the players' lives and there is obvious excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead," Henry said. "To be playing in the final of the Rugby World Cup in front of our home crowd is going to be massive, and a very special occasion for the team as well as our fans."
Aaron Cruden was retained at flyhalf, starting back-to-back Tests at No 10 after being drafted into the squad when star playmaker Dan Carter was ruled out with a tournament-ending groin injury. Cruden will be making his 9th Test appearance.
The All Blacks beat No 2-ranked Australia 20-6 last Sunday and have been in dominant form in the tournament, including a 37-17 win over France in the pool stage.
France come into the final in patchy form, following scrappy wins over Japan and Canada with losses to New Zealand and Tonga in the group stage. The French produced their best rugby to beat England in the quarter-finals, but struggled to hold off a 14-man Wales 9-8 in the semi-finals.
New Zealand beat France in the 1987 final to win the inaugural tournament, but have lost knockout matches to the French since then, including the semi-finals in 1999 and the quarter-finals four years ago.
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Sonny Bill WilliamsFrance:
15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Morgan Parra, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux