Rugby World Cup 2011: Henry hails 'heroic' All Blacks

New Zealand coach Graham Henry said his side's performance was "heroic" after they booked a World Cup final against France by defeating Australia 20-6.

"They were fabulous, weren't they? They showed huge character," he said.

"They gave 100%. They gave everything, they were just outstanding."

Captain Richie McCaw described his side's performance as "awesome" but warned the job was far from done as New Zealand seek their first world title since 1987 - and only second ever.

"We've got next week to look forward to and I'm very proud of the way the guys fronted up," he said.

NZ V FRANCE AT WORLD CUPS

  • 1987: NZ 29-9 France (final)
  • 1999: France 43-31 NZ (semi)
  • 2007: France 20-18 NZ (QF)
  • 2011: NZ 37-17 France (pool)

"It was a pretty good performance tonight but we won't get carried away, we will need it again next week."

All Blacks coach Henry said his side "had a huge physical presence from minute one to minute 80, led by Richie [McCaw]", adding that McCaw was "outstanding both in playing and leadership".

The coach continued: "Richie would probably be modest and say our front five dominated theirs and gave us a bit of an edge, which they did. But I thought he was pretty special myself."

Henry was in charge when New Zealand fell at the quarter-final stage in 2007 at the hands of France.

Asked what was behind the win over the Wallabies, he replied: "Four years of planning, I suppose. Four years of guys being frustrated and wanting to do the job, four years of trying to get things right.

Analysis

For all the talk of a trans-Tasman tussle to match the Wallabies' wins of 2003 and 1999, this was a lesson in controlled rugby, the 20-6 margin 17 points shy of what it might have been had the All Blacks landed all their eminently kickable opportunities

"We have lot of history with France at World Cups. We respect them and it will be a big game next week."

Australia coach Robbie Deans - a former All Black assistant coach - believes New Zealand are firm favourites to beat France in Auckland next Sunday.

"The All Blacks showed tonight they are more than capable of winning that final," said Deans.

"The intent is there, they are an experienced group. For the nucleus of them it is their third attempt, they are well versed, they are hungry and they have a lot of support around them.

"They will take a lot of stopping from here. Good luck to New Zealand in the final. They have worked hard for this opportunity."

The defeat was Australia's biggest ever World Cup loss and captain James Horwill admitted: "They deserved to win, we were out-played by a better side today.

AUSSIE PLAYERS ON TWITTER

  • Thanks for all the support during #RWC2011 It has been amazing. Sorry we couldn't get the win tonight. Credit to the AB's. They were 2 good. (David Pocock)
  • Feeling gutted here in the dressing rooms. The support the whole time has been awesome. I hope the ABs win the RWC they deserve it. VG side. (Stephen Moore)
  • Speechless, cld be worst feeling ever. absolutely gutted! Ab's jst too gd tonight-played gr8 rugby n deserved the win. (James O'Connor)

"Everyone's pretty disappointed. You can hear a pin drop in the dressing room. It's a tough pill to swallow."

Australia's New Zealand born fly-half Quade Cooper had a night to forget, producing some superb moments but book ending the match by sending the kick-off out on the full, before being tackled into touch to end the game.

After a needling McCaw on a couple of occasions in the preceding 12 months he has been a target for New Zealand fans throughout the tournament.

"Everyone was trying to get at me personally, but I definitely think I'm going to be better off for it. The way everybody came at me from all angles, whether it be media, the crowd, trying to make a big buzz out of it - I got used to it and I think I drew a lot of confidence out of it," he insisted.

"I'm not in a position to point fingers about that and have a cry about it, mate. It's there, it's going to happen and it has happened. It was just about getting on and doing the best I could for my team. I feel I did that."