Clerc warmed by flickering fires of France

Wing admits Les Bleus will have to be at their best in final but sees signs of hope

"Someone has to be favourites," said Vincent Clerc, the brilliant little wing from Toulouse, as he chewed the fat ahead of this weekend's World Cup final with New Zealand at Eden Park. As there was no conceivable need for him to add the phrase "and it's not us", he saved his breath. But there was, at long last, a hint of the French fires beginning to burn – a discernible increase in temperature around the team's city centre hotel – as Clerc and a couple of colleagues, Morgan Parra and Imanol Harinordoquy among them, discussed their chances of turning the tournament upside down on Sunday.

"I don't feel as though I'm living in the skin of a loser, of someone who is not very good," Clerc remarked. "I really don't feel that at all. New Zealand have reasons to be confident: it is logical that people expect them to win this game. But maybe it's our turn to play our cards. We know we're capable of playing the match we need to play: it's never easy against the All Blacks, but we have the tools. This game is still in the future. New Zealand are not world champions yet."

Along with Cory Jane, his opposite number this weekend, Clerc has been the competition's outstanding right wing. He has scored half a dozen tries in as many contests – a tally matched only by Chris Ashton of England – and been heavily involved in most of the good things achieved by Les Bleus over the last seven weeks. (He was at the heart of the great controversy in the semi-final against Wales too, but it was hardly his fault that Sam Warburton overcooked a tackle and got himself sent off). All tournament, he has been one of the Tricolores who at least looked like he believed, and his words yesterday reinforced that impression.

"Victories against the All Blacks are improbable," he admitted. "We have to be completely realistic, completely lucid: we cannot miss a single opportunity. But we're not in this final by coincidence; we're here because we've done what needed to be done. Yes, when people say we are alone here in New Zealand, it is true. But we were alone when we beat the All Blacks in Cardiff in the last tournament and alone when we won in Dunedin in 2009. We are in our own bubble: we don't need to look outside or think about what anybody else is doing or saying.

"There have been difficult times in this tournament, but the French team is driven to difficulty. We like difficulty. It is our default position and it allows us to believe that the impossible is possible. This is a unique opportunity for us and I think we understand that we have no choice but to try to make history. This week cannot be compared with last week, before the semi-final. That was a very stressful time. Now, we are in a different dimension: we are in a very pleasant place. It will be hard for us, this game, but we can destabilise the All Blacks because we have the ability to do exceptional things."

The New Zealanders are well aware of the potential for a last-day upset, unlikely as it appears on the evidence of the rugby played in this tournament. Certainly, the hosts are disconcerted whenever a discussion of Sunday's prospects takes on a tone of assumption and questions are asked about life after the final. Steve Hansen, the assistant coach, is widely expected to succeed Graham Henry in the top job, but he was in no hurry yesterday to engage with the subject.

"Ask me on Monday, if I'm sober," he said. "Right now, I'm not interested in anything that might happen after Sunday. I just want to prepare our team to play really well against France, because that's what they'll have to do. Why? Because France will turn up. I'm sure of that.

"One of the amazing things about this All Black group is its ability to discuss things when the time is right to discuss them. Richie McCaw won his 100th cap during this tournament; Mils Muliaina did the same; this will be Wayne Smith's last game on the coaching staff. We haven't talked once about any of those things because we're focusing on something different."

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment