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September 21, 2017

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Deans predicts French rugby failure

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- 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 Rugby 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.

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