The New Zealand media on Monday boldly predicted the All Blacks were set to end 24 years of World Cup pain against France after dominating Australia in a pulsating semifinal display.
"This is our time!" ran a headline in Wellington's Dominion Post after the All Blacks steamrollered the Wallabies 20-6 at Auckland's Eden Park on Sunday to set up a decider against Les Bleus at the same ground this coming Sunday.
Under the headline "Epic All Blacks deliver on huge night", the New Zealand Herald's Dylan Cleaver wrote: "Yes we can and yes we did -- in style.
"Twenty-four years after New Zealand and France played the first Rugby World Cup final on Eden Park, the two teams will meet there again," said Cleaver, who added the All Blacks had been "scintillating" in beating the Wallabies.
Coverage leading up to the clash with arch-rival Australia was cautious, with media mindful of the "choker" tag that has dogged the All Blacks, who have fallen victim to a string of upsets since their only World Cup title in 1987.
But the punditry took on a confident swagger after Graham Henry's team comfortably disposed of the Wallabies, seen by New Zealand media as the main threat to New Zealand's chances of winning the tournament.
"Graham Henry and the players would never admit it, but the All Blacks already have one hand and four fingers on the World Cup," the Dominion Post said.
'We're the better team'
While France eliminated New Zealand from the 1999 and 2007 World Cups, there was scant regard for the threat posed by the current team after the All Blacks thrashed the French 37-17 in a five-try romp during the pool phase.
"The All Blacks will confront a flawed French side in the final this Sunday -- the perfect opportunity to erase ghosts of the past, and lift the World Cup for the first time in 24 years," the New Zealand Herald said.
"The Australians will have to wait four more years," it added, echoing a taunt former Wallaby skipper George Gregan directed at the New Zealand pack when Australia defeated the All Blacks in the 2003 semifinal.
All Black-turned TV commentator Anton Oliver acknowledged France's "gnarly, grizzly" pack but believed New Zealand's all-round talent would prove too much in a rematch of the inaugural 1987 final, which the All Blacks won 29-9.
"I still think we'll win, simply because we're the better team," he told Radio New Zealand.
"We're the better team right across the park. We can play any number of game [plans], we've shored up a lot of our weaknesses; we're very comfortable under the high ball."
'Destiny is ready'
Beneath the headline "France in the crosshairs of history" Dominion Post rugby writer Tony Robson was one of many commentators to indicate the All Blacks were ready to atone for decades of World Cup underachievement.
"It is now hard to escape the feeling that a 24-year dam is creaking," he said.
The New Zealand Herald's Wynne Gray said the emphatic nature of the win over Australia had helped lay to rest memories of past All Blacks defeats.
"This time they and the nation will feel destiny is ready to repeat when they return to Eden Park for the seventh Webb Ellis Cup decider," he said. -- AFP
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