Auckland: New Zealand  is all set to face France in Sunday's World Cup final to end the 24-year wait of a rugby-mad nation for its second world title.

Host  team, ‘All Blacks’ have been the outstanding team of the tournament, winning their pool matches by margins of between 20 and 76 points, scoring 240 points and conceding 49 in four games, then beating Argentina and Australia in knockout matches with barely a flicker of anxiety on the field.

Whereas, France lost twice in pool matches, to New Zealand and in almost humiliating fashion to Tonga, then compounded its poor form with a self-destructive display of internal discord.The All Blacks sustained a key injury during pool play — the loss of star flyhalf Dan Carter — that was thought capable of derailing their campaign, but took it in their stride.

As reigning world champion South Africa and 2003 champions England fell in the quarterfinals along with Ireland, which had beaten Australia in pool play, New Zealand steered an unbroken course to the final. In the nature of All Blacks rugby it drew on almost prodigious depth of talent: elevating 22-year-old flyhalf Aaron Cruden and scrumhalf Piri Weepu from subordinate to indispensable roles without any disruption to its pattern.

New Zealand met its archrival Australia in the semifinals and, for a moment, this nation of 4.5 million quavered; feared that in a match between the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in world rugby its long quest for World Cup glory might unravel.

Instead, New Zealand played majestically, physically imposing itself on the match, shutting down Australia's key playmakers to win 20-6 and to become, even more than it had been previously, an overwhelming favorite to win the final.

The All Blacks say they have a balance in their squad between veterans of the 2007 defeat and youngsters such as Cruden and fullback Israel Dagg who are unscarred by that experience.

(Agencies)