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No changes for All Blacks

New Zealand coach Graham Henry has named an unchanged team for Sunday's World Cup final against France at Eden Park.

Henry predictably retains the side that crushed semi-final opponents Australia last weekend as the All Blacks bid for a first world title since 1987.

The only switch is among the replacements, where flanker Adam Thomson has recovered from an ankle strain to take over from Victor Vito.

The New Zealand team contains a total of 708 caps, and they will start as red-hot favourites against a French side they have already beaten in the tournament's pool phase.

"This is the biggest game of the players' lives. And there is obvious excitement and anticipation at what lies ahead," said Henry, who will step down as coach following the final.

"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. The support the team has received from New Zealanders throughout the tournament has been incredibly humbling, and we know the country will be right behind us on Sunday."

The All Blacks back-row of Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read will play their 21st Test together, breaking the previous New Zealand-best held by McCaw, Jerry Collins and Rodney So'oialo. And hooker Keven Mealamu wins his 92nd cap, joining Sean Fitzpatrick as the most capped New Zealand hooker of all-time.

New Zealand beat France in the 1987 final, but Les Bleus triumphed in a 1999 semi-final at Twickenham and again four years ago when they knocked out the All Blacks during the quarter-final stage.

Team: I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, R Kahui; A Cruden, P Weepu; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, O Franks, B Thorn, S Whitelock, J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), K Read.

Replacements: A Hore, B Franks, A Williams, A Thomson, A Ellis, S Donald, S B Williams.


From Belfast Telegraph