New Zealand pays homage to its rugby heroes

Story highlights

  • A massive crowd in Auckland celebrates Rugby World Cup triumph
  • Similar celebrations planned for Christchurch and Wellington
  • New Zealand beat France 8-7 in Sunday's final at Eden Park
  • Graham Henry named coach of year and New Zealand team of year by IRB

New Zealand woke up to a giant collective hangover Monday as the rugby-mad nation savored its triumph in the World Cup final in Auckland.

No matter the 8-7 final win over France was more notable for perspiration than inspiration, the All Blacks had finally laid a 24-year-old hoodoo since their victory in the first-ever World Cup in New Zealand in 1987.

Despite being the No.1 ranked international team for most of the intervening years, success on the ultimate stage eluded successive All Blacks teams.

The nadir perhaps was the failure of the 2007 team, who fell victim to an inspired French team in Cardiff in the quarterfinals.

But also long in the memory were defeats in the 1995 final to South Africa and semifinal defeats in 1999 and 2003.

New Zealand celebrates World Cup win
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But Graham Henry's men, badly missing the influence and the accurate boot of injured fly-half Dan Carter, held on for a one-point win in the lowest scoring final in the tournament's history.

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For four million New Zealanders, the manner of the victory mattered not a jot, a welcome diversion in a year which began with the Christchurch earthquake disaster and continued with a mining disaster and nasty oil spill in the Bay of Plenty.

After the final at Eden Park, New Zealand were named team of the year in the International Rugby Board annual awards and Henry was coach of the year.

Player of the year was the French captain Thierry Dusautoir, who did his best to spoil the All Blacks' party with his second half try.

On Monday, captain Richie McCaw his team paraded the William Webb Ellis Trophy through the streets of Auckland on an open top bus with an estimated crowd of 200,0000 in attendance.

Similar celebrations are planned for Christchurch and Wellington on Tuesday and Wednesday.