Rugby World Cup final 2011: France unchanged for New Zealand

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer

France coach Marc Lievremont insists his team can pull off one of the great World Cup upsets after he named an unchanged side for Sunday's final.

New Zealand thrashed France in the group stage and are favourites to win their first World Cup in 24 years after outplaying Australia in the semi-final.

But Lievremont, in his last game in charge of the side, said: "Every time we play the All Blacks it's always the same - they are always the favourites.

"I believe in our team and we can win."

France have come in for heavy criticism after they struggled past 14-man Wales in Saturday's semi-final, going tryless in their 9-8 win.

That followed being beaten by Tonga in the Pool stages a fortnight ago - but Lievremont remains unapologetic about their style.

He said: "If we have to win it the same way we beat Wales, I will accept that with great pleasure.

"The problem with a lot of people is that they have serious holes in their memory. In 1999, apart from a very accomplished semi-final [against New Zealand], the French flair or the French spirit, as they say, was seriously missing. I should know, I was there.

"In 1995, there was an epic semi-final [against South Africa], but we qualified in the last minute against Scotland in the quarter-finals.

"The history of French rugby, even if displeases some people, has always been made of ups and down. Some matches that were not good, some won through courage, like last week."

Four of Lievremont's team - hooker William Servat, number eight Imanol Harinordoquy and the half-back pair of Dimitri Yachvili and Morgan Parra - only took part in very light training on Wednesday, while flanker Julien Bonnaire sat it out entirely.

While Lievremont has delayed naming his seven replacements until Friday, he is confident that his first choice XV - the second-oldest in French history - will all be fit for France's first World Cup final since 1999, when he himself was in the team.

He added: "It's really hard to compare a final as a player and as a coach. These games often come down to small details. I hope that will be the case - and not the thrashing everyone's predicted.

"The first thing I said to the players at the start of the World Cup was that everything matters, both mentally and physically. We must be prepared to do everything we can to win this match."

New Zealand thumped France 37-17 in their pool match four weeks ago. Thirteen of France's starting XV played in that match but All Blacks back Sonny Bill Williams said the squad were taking heed of what happened four years ago, when an unfancied French side were beaten by Argentina in the pool stages but produced a stirring second-half fightback to knock New Zealand out in the quarter-finals.

Williams warned: "Expect the unexpected. They can shock us, as they've done in past World Cups.

"Their scrum is up there with the best in the world, their line-out is not too bad either and their backs are unpredictable.

"You can play against one side one week and then you play against them a couple of weeks later and they're a different team. Past form means nothing."

France: Maxime Médard, Vincent Clerc, Aurélien Rougerie Maxime Mermoz, Alexis Palisson, Morgan Parra, Dimitri Yachvili; Jean-Baptiste Poux, William Servat, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Papé, Lionel Nallet, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Julien Bonnaire, Imanol Harinordoquy.