New Zealand v France, Rugby World Cup, October 23, 2011
Henry: It's down to the players now
October 21, 2011
Henry keen not to 'distract'%]
All Blacks coach Graham Henry will refrain from any last minute words of encouragement to his side before the World Cup final believing it would merely be a "distraction."
Despite it being the biggest game in Henry's career, the coach believes it is the players' time to get their minds in gear as they look to return the William Webb Ellis cup to home soil for the first time in 24 years. "I don't talk," Henry said. "Seriously. Sunday night before they run out on to the field is their time. It has to be their time.
"They've got to get their own minds right and settled and on the job and people talking to them at that time is an absolute waste of time. In fact it's a distraction. Words will be said today and words will be said tomorrow. But I personally don't believe it's the right time to talk to teams just before they play."
With a leadership team including the likes of Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu and Kieran Read, it will be them who will rally the players pre-match. And Piri Weepu will look for his side to do their talking on the pitch rather than in the changing room. "Ted [Graham Henry] doesn't do a lot of talking," Weepu said. "It's basically our game leaders, the boys on the field who are leading the team around and Richie, if the boys have something to share with the team.
"We don't really do a lot. It's just pretty much we do our talking with what we do on the field."
For Henry, the match presents the opportunity for his golden generation - a side which was tipped as favourites for the 2007 showpiece - to bury the ghosts of the past. And Henry - who is expected to step down as All Blacks coach after the final - admits it would be "marvellous" if they finally took rugby's biggest prize for the second time.
"I've been with a lot of these guys for a long time, and although they may be ranked the leading team in the world, they've never been world champions," Henry said. "It would be just marvellous to have that title because they've had every other title that is going in rugby apart from this one.
"So for [captain] Richie McCaw and the boys I think that would be fabulous. I think they are good enough, and that would be the icing on the cake."
For Israel Dagg the match will bring to an end a difficult season for the Crusaders back. The 23-year-old's dreams of making the World Cup squad - let alone appearing in a final - looked to be shattered after sustaining a thigh injury in May and having to undergo the surgeon's knife. But he has shone throughout their campaign - crossing the try-line five times in the process - and admits the final will be a "surreal" moment for him.
"I guess it has been a challenge," he said. "It was a serious injury and doubts crept into my mind, dealing with the adversity.
"I had a good rehab plan with the All Blacks and Canterbury and I just had to do everything right and do my work. Then when I had the opportunity I had to prove I was capable of doing the job. I just went out there and played my game and luckily things went my way. It's pretty surreal that I'm here today."
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