France allow New Zealand to wear traditional all black strip for final

Meanwhile, Graham Henry, the All Blacks coach, welcomes the appointment of Craig Joubert as the referee for the Rugby World Cup final.

The All Blacks will be playing France in their traditional strip in the Rugby World Cup final on Sunday.
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AUCKLAND // New Zealand will play in their traditional all black strip despite France, who will be in white, winning the toss for choice of colours ahead of Sunday's Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park.

Jo Maso, the France team manager, said today his side were happy to change as a mark of respect for "the welcome they'd received from the people of New Zealand, the faultless organisation of the tournament and the honour and pleasure of playing the 2011 Rugby World Cup final in the legendary stadium of Eden Park".

Historically, shirt colour never used to be an issue between the two countries with France wearing navy blue and New Zealand, this year's World Cup hosts, black.

But the decision of France's US-based kit suppliers Nike to develop a darker blue shirt for the 2007 World Cup caused problems ahead of a quarter-final clash against New Zealand in Cardiff.

Eventually, after much debate, France played in blue and New Zealand an unfamiliar grey in a dramatic match the French won 20-18.

Traditionally in rugby, unlike football, if there was a clash of colours between the two teams it was the home side who would change.

Hence the sight of the All Blacks playing Tests against Scotland, whose first-choice colour is dark blue, in New Zealand while wearing white shirts.

Meanwhile, Graham Henry, the All Blacks coach welcomed the appointment of Craig Joubert, the South African official, as referee for the final.

Joubert, 33, handled New Zealand's 20-6 semi-final win over Australia yesterday and avoided any of the controversy that has followed some of the other knock-out matches.

He is the second South African to referee a World Cup final following Andre Watson, who handled two championship matches.

"He's a referee who relates well to the players on the field," Henry said. "He's very clear in his instructions and he's got a lot of composure out there.

"He's developed into one of the top referees in the world over the last three or four years and it's pleasing. The players enjoy playing when he's refereeing and I think that's the sign of a good ref."

Ireland's Alain Rolland, who took charge of the 2007 final, will be an assistant referee this time. His controversial decision to send off Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, for a dangerous spear tackle in the semi-final against France was backed by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

Nigel Owens, the Welsh referee who was strongly criticised by Samoan players and fans for his handling of a pool stage match against South Africa, is the other touch judge for the final.

In other appointments confirmed today, England's Wayne Barnes will handle the third-place play-off between Australia and Wales on Friday.

Paddy O'Brien, the IRB referees manager, said he was "delighted" with Joubert and Rolland's handling of the semi-finals and the appointments for the final were "entirely on merit."

"We may be nearing the conclusion of what has been a truly superb Rugby World Cup, but our focus remains firmly on consistency, penalising the clear and the obvious," O'Brien said.

"Collectively we continue to work together as a unit and maintain a zero tolerance attitude towards infringements and foul play across the key areas of the game."