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France players challenge haka in World Cup final

Updated: October 23, 2011, 08:50

AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Marching forward to confront their rivals, France's players challenged New Zealand's traditional haka before Sunday's Rugby World Cup final kicked off.

It was an ominous warning of things to come, with the French pushing the overwhelming favorites all the way before losing 8-7 to the All Blacks in the lowest-scoring final ever at the World Cup.

Before the match, France's players linked arms in a spearhead 'V' formation with captain Thierry Dusautoir at the front and advanced to the halfway line in a rare break with tradition.

"I wasn't alone, I had my teammates with me. I felt them close to me - too close at one stage, because they wanted to go across the field and hug New Zealand,'' Dusautoir said. "It was necessary to calm them down. But it's a great moment we'll all remember. Winning the trophy would have been fantastic.''

As the haka continued, the French players moved step by step until they were only 10 yards from the All Blacks, with prop Fabien Barcella straining forward to gain further ground.

"It was a 'V' for victory, quite simply. It's the chance of a lifetime to play a final at Eden Park, we didn't want to miss out on it,'' Barcella said. "It came from the heart, and showed that the 30 of us were together tonight.''

In 2007, the French wore red, white and blue T-shirts in the colors of the French flag before the quarterfinal win against New Zealand, standing face-to-face with the All Blacks.

"I felt during the week that the players wanted to do something during the haka, like they did in 2007,'' Dusautoir said. "Someone came to see us, who I won't name, who told us this idea. We thought of it this morning.''

Flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc said the French players wanted to make a mental impression on their opponents.

"We had to throw down the challenge to them,'' Trinh-Duc said. "It's a special moment for the All Blacks, so we wanted a special moment for ourselves as well.

"It was a way of defying them, letting them know we were there,'' he added. "I think they were surprised, they weren't expecting it, so I think it worked.''

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