The shock French confrontation of the haka epitomised their unpredicted and inspired approach to last night's agonising one-point World Cup final loss to the All Blacks.
After all, France were supposed to get beaten by 20 points.
France caused dismay with a V-shaped symbol of unity behind inspirational captain Thierry Dusautoir as the All Blacks laid down their traditional pre-match challenge at Eden Park.
Normally, opponents stand still and watch New Zealand's unique war dance.
But the Tricolors took it further, advancing on the All Blacks in a similar scenario to the last World Cup in Cardiff, where they went on to claim a rousing quarterfinal upset.
"There was no one in the whole stadium looking at the haka. They were all looking to see what the French were doing as soon as they went into the triangle and started walking forward," assistant coach Gonzalo Quesada recalled.
Dusautoir admitted the success of the controversial tactic four years ago had prompted the French to use it again - and it almost worked.
"It was a great moment and had it been capped by victory it would have been a great story," he lamented.
"During the week the players felt they wanted to do something for the haka. Some players weren't there in 2007 but they wanted to do something like that. We thought the V was a good idea."
Teams are required by International Rugby Board regulations to maintain a 10 metre distance and not cross the halfway line while the haka is being performed.
In the passionate moment, some French players ignored the rules, but coach Marc Lievremont, who now steps down, downplayed a potential fine as Dusautoir "attempted" to restrict his team crossing into enemy territory. This, however, may not satisfy the IRB.
Quesada believed the tactic, which set the tone for a dramatic finale to the tournament, inspired the French as much as it appeared to rattle the All Blacks.
"They got some real strength out of it," he said of his men. "I don't know whose idea it was but we knew they were going to prepare something and it was a great idea.
"It was awesome. I talked to many of the players in the dressing room after the match and they said it was absolutely emotional."
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw agreed the captivating acceptance of his side's challenge showed Les Bleus would push them to the brink.
He said the All Blacks expected the French to throw something different at them, but also noted it's what happens after the whistle that counts.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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