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World Cup winning captain reflects on All Blacks’ intense rivalry with France

By Finn Morton
The All Blacks performing the Haka prior the Autumn Nations Series match between France and New Zealand on November 20, 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

Having walked up into the stands at Auckland’s Eden Park in 1987, All Blacks captain David Kirk awaited a moment that will echo throughout rugby history forever.


Captain Kirk scored one of the All Blacks’ three tries as they ran away with a convincing 29-9 victory over France in the first-ever Rugby World Cup final.

Playing in front of more than 48,000 vibrant supporters at Auckland’s Eden Park, New Zealand proved that they were “the best in the world.”

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Kirk shook the hand of IRB chairman Albert Ferrasse as the halfback was handed the sought-after trophy. Then, with a grin on his face, Kirk became the first captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

At that moment – as the entire country of New Zealand began to celebrate the victory – the greatest Rugby World Cup rivalry in history was born.

The All Blacks were the champions, while France had fallen agonisingly short of the sport’s ultimate prize.

Including that famous final, the two proud rugby nations have seven times in Rugby World Cup history. France were beaten by New Zealand at Eden Park in the 2011 final as well.


“It’s huge and it’s partly because of its history, and the history is that we’ve won more games than they have, and we’ve won three World Cup finals and they’ve been in three and lost them all,” Kirk told RugbyPass.

“It’s different when you get to the World Cup final. We’ve got a significantly better record than they have and overall, over a long period of time, we’ve certainly won more games.

“But every French team seems to have the ability to beat every All Black team on the day, which you couldn’t say for a lot of other countries.

“We’ve always been very wary of the French and very respectful and very knowledgeable about their capabilities.”


New Zealand and France will write another chapter into the history books of their rivalry on Friday when they meet in the opening Test of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Les Bleus have fallen short of World Cup glory in the decider on three occasions, including the 1987 and 2011 match-ups with the Kiwis. They were also beaten by Australia in ’99.

But this year could be something special for the French, or at least that’s the expectation and belief of many rugby fans around the world.

France has been “the best team” in the world for quite some time, and they’re favoured to break their World Cup finals drought in front of their home fans next month.

“This World Cup is even more challenging. I think the French team that is playing here, I think it’s fair to say, I would certainly say this is the best French team since the team we played against,” Kirk added.

“1987 was a wonderful team. Names like Serge Blanco and Philippe Sella and others, so very well-known players.

“But this team is also outstanding. But the first match of the tournament and the first All Blacks match against France, it’s sort of crucial and it isn’t.

“It’s crucial for confidence, momentum and continuing to build team tactics and learn from what’s happening… which is always really important in a World Cup so I hope the All Blacks win and I hope it’s the beginning of a process of building on every previous game.

“But if they don’t win, it actually doesn’t make that much difference to their opportunities to get to the final because whatever happens, France and New Zealand are going to play one of South Africa and Ireland.


“In the quarterfinals, those four teams match up, and those are the four best teams in the world. So it doesn’t really matter who they play, if we play South Africa or Ireland, we’ve got to beat them.

“But everyone likes bragging rights, everyone likes the confidence in yourself and the ability to go all the way. I’m very much hoping New Zealand wins but I think it’s gonna be very tough.

“I think France is probably the best team in the tournament coming into the tournament on form so we’ll see what happens.”


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