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Sean Fitzpatrick views on the RWC Final

Sean's Blog 9

Posted Oct 25, 2011 by Sean Fitzpatrick

Auckland was a very special place to be on Sunday as we celebrated the crowning of the new world champions New Zealand, after the 8-7 win over France.

I don't think I have ever experienced an atmosphere in a stadium anywhere in the world like that.

And it was just the same throughout the entire country. The whole nation wore black to support their team.

When the team coach left the team hotel for Eden Park for the final, the streets were lined for the four-and-a-half kilometres to the stadium with thousands of people. It was an expression of the nation's total commitment to the cause, a wave of support from four million people who wanted victory so much.

Everyone who was expecting the final to be one-sided didn't know much about the history of the All Blacks v the French, particularly in 1999 and 2007.

I have lost to the French more than any other All Black, so I knew a French team capable of winning the Rugby World Cup could turn up - even though they lost to Tonga, the 16th nation in the world rankings, in their last Pool game.

Of course, as we now know, the French team which turned up did want to win the World Cup. And they played very well.

It was not the script that the New Zealand supporters wanted. After the tension and pressure of the Australia semi-final, they wanted a coronation.
They wanted to be able to relax and watch the All Blacks cruise to victory.

The French were having none of that, from the moment they stood together in defiance to the haka at the start of the game, they made it clear they were there to win.

But this was New Zealand's day, even if the final margin was just a point.
What stands out for me is how much this team has grown over the tournament.

Great people make great All Blacks, is what they say, and that is what we needed on the field and what we had. All 22 played with unbelievable courage and determination.

It was an amazing, gritty game. With neither side giving an inch, it was like the last decisive battle in an exhausting war, with the All Blacks hanging in there to finish the job.

But then with a captain like Richie McCaw and a coach like Graham Henry that's what you are going to get.

I saw Richie after the game - he was exhausted, battered, could hardly walk. I am just so pleased for him and Graham to have achieved something they have worked so hard for.

The celebration of rugby over the last six weeks has been unforgettable and has certainly put smiles on the faces of many people around the world.

It has been a difficult year for New Zealand as a country, trying to get over the Christchurch earthquake, the Pike River mining disaster and more recently the crippled container ship Rena stranded on a reef and leaking oil. Having the Rugby World Cup here has helped.
We are not alone in this of course. There have been the terrible floods in Australia, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the Gleision mining tragedy in Wales. All these countries have suffered and I hope the Rugby World Cup has been able to play a part in the healing process and let the victims know we are thinking of them.

As a Laureus Academy Member, I believe that sport can help people, particularly children, who are facing difficulties. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation uses sport to re-build communities around the world. And of course rugby is one of the best sports to bring people together and develop team spirit.

It's been great fun for me to be able to share my views with you over the last six weeks.
Now, of course, as a Kiwi, and with New Zealand as deserving winners, I can start to savour the next Rugby World Cup in England in 2015.

I can't wait!

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