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Australia coach predicts French can't beat NZ

Updated: October 17, 2011, 00:07


AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) The morning after watching his young Australian lineup being completely battered by New Zealand in Sunday's semifinal, Robbie Deans predicted France didn't have a chance against the All Blacks in the World Cup final.

The All Blacks vented two decades worth of World Cup frustration on the Wallabies in a 20-6 victory at Eden Park to reach the final for the third time.

"I can't see anyone stopping the All Blacks now,'' Deans told a news conference Monday.

New Zealand beat France in the final of the inaugural World Cup in 1987, but hasn't won a title since then despite being ranked No. 1 in the world for most of the time. Australia has won two World Cups since then, and beat the All Blacks in semifinals in 1991 and 2003.

The French have scored some famous upsets over the All Blacks, including the 1999 semifinal and in the quarterfinals four years ago.

France has had a hot-and-cold campaign here, losing to New Zealand and Tonga in the group stage before overpowering England in the quarterfinals and just hanging on to edge a 14-man Wales team 9-8 in the semifinals.

Deans, a former All Blacks fullback and assistant coach, thinks New Zealand's bitter disappointments in the last two World Cups had galvanized the squad to the degree where fear of the unpredictable French won't be a factor this time.

"What the All Blacks have is a group who have suffered on many occasions. The core of their group, the nucleus of their group, this is their third attempt and they've got that burning desire, that fire in the belly for that reason,'' Deans said. "And they've also got that mental resilience. We don't have that as yet, to the same extent.''

Deans doesn't need reminding how important rugby is in New Zealand, where rugby is like a religion.

"There's no coincidence that the first time they won the World Cup it was based in New Zealand,'' he said. "You've only got to walk the streets to see and feel that. I guess the players are living proof of it.''

Sunday's semifinal was a clash between the top two ranked teams in world rugby, but the result was a mismatch. The New Zealanders were better in 14 of the 15 positions, with only Wallabies winger James O'Connor getting a slight upper hand on his opposite Richard Kahui.

For Deans, finishing in the top four couldn't be considered a success and the chance for third place was hardly a consolation.

"Not in our eyes,'' he said. "We aspired to more than that.''

Richie McCaw ended any debate about who is the best openside flanker in the world by outplaying David Pocock, although he got help from a well-devised gameplan in which the All Blacks targeted the Wallabies' fetcher in the defensive line to reduce his effect at the breakdown.

After losing 10 tests to the All Blacks, Australia went into the semifinal with wins in two of the last three head-to-heads, including the Tri-Nations decider at Brisbane in August. It just showed that a hardened, experienced squad was a better recipe for success at a World Cup than a brash young team of individuals.

"We have to take value out of it. I have no doubt we will,'' Deans said. "We've got a job to do on Friday, first. This whole playing group will be better for the experience.''

While the All Blacks had a plan to nullify Pocock, they also targeted New Zealand-born Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper, who was booed and jeered every time he touched the ball and was dubbed Public Enemy No. 1.

The mercurial Cooper was ineffective in the World Cup knockout rounds, and made uncharacteristic errors which were pounced on by his critics as evidence of his flaws.

Deans said Cooper "absolutely'' had his backing, and that the public hate campaign was a challenge that would make the 23-year-old pivot a better player.

"That's tough for a young man, Deans said. "The key thing for Quade is moving on.

"Clearly a lot of the dialogue is unwarranted. It's easy for people who really have no knowledge of the man to take a potshot. The way he's carried himself has been impressive under the circumstances.''

But he didn't think the extra focus on Cooper led to his off-key performances.

"The whole playing group has been under pressure, the whole playing group has made errors, but it's just the fact his errors are attributed to a sideshow,'' Deans said.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry gave the Wallabies some motivation for the future, when he said after the semifinal that Cooper had attracted the negative attention himself and hadn't earned the crowd's respect.

"That's the same for all of us, I guess,'' Deans said. "All Graham is saying is he doesn't respect him that much.''

Deans had his contracted extended before the World Cup, meaning he should remain in charge to guide the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions in 2013. A poor showing in that series could cost him the job. Regardless, he's confident Australia will continue to evolve into a top contender in 2015.

"I'd love to see this group one day - and there's no doubt there will be a significant number of them who will get another opportunity - win a World Cup,'' he said. "And, either way, whether I was there or not, I'd take pride in any part I'd played in it.''

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