All Blacks lock Brad Thorn's recommendation to his fellow players for a stress-free buildup to the World Cup final is: Avoid the media.
New Zealand's oldest ever World Cup player has been playing finals football for most of the past 14 years. The 36-year-old Thorn made his name first in rugby league with the Brisbane Broncos in Australia's National Rugby League then Queensland in State of Origin and the Kangaroos in tests.
He scored the All Blacks' first try in the 2003 World Cup, returned to league for a third NRL title with the Broncos, and came back to union to star again with the Crusaders and All Blacks.
From his considerable experience, in finals week it's best not to read, listen or watch any media, especially if you're team is the hot favorite, as the All Blacks are against France's for Sunday's final at Eden Park.
"There's the hype and then there's reality," Thorn said in his renowned hoarse voice on Monday.
"With the Broncos, we we're probably favored by the media. We just did the hard work in the week, we had a bit of momentum going into the game, just played for each other, cared about each other, and luckily on the day we got the job done.
"I won't be reading much this week, just preparing for the battle, from the first minute to the 80th."
Thorn had his usual powerful game at lock in the intense 20-6 win over Australia in the semifinals on Sunday, but distinguished himself with two mighty fist-pumps after an All Blacks tighthead scrum, and waving at the crowd to cheer even louder for the team. He said he wasn't going to apologise for the uncommon show of raw emotion, though no apology was necessary.
"When I was excited last night, we'd just pushed them off the ball," he said. "It doesn't just happen, a lot goes on in there and maybe it might take a lock to understand but when you come out of that you feel you had a real big effort there. It doesn't happen easily and it's a really good moment."
In his inimitable way, the noted gym rat compared what he felt to doing his personal-best, once-only squat of 205 kilos.
"It's not much fun to do a max squat, it's intimidating," he said. "When you do it you have to be hyped up and when you do the squat you feel pumped up. Scrummaging is like that. When it's their (put-in) you have to wait for the ball to come in. Can't just get momentum. As a unit you have to work together, especially the tight five, so to go up against another international pack and (get a tighthead). ... In the 70th minute of a Test with an opportunity to go to a World Cup final, it was a pretty cool time in my opinion."
The chance to respond to the crowd's enthusiasm also was an opportunity too good to pass up, he added.
Thorn said he's been overwhelmed by the excitement of All Blacks fans. He noted they've waited to cheer the team when its left the hotel for the game, cheered their bus along the streets, as well as cheered in the stadium.
"From down in Stewart Island to the top of the North Island, some people say it's pressure (from the fans) but to me it's a lift," he said.
"New Zealand people are loving (the World Cup) and really want us to do well. For me, growing up in Australia (from the age of 8), I felt the same way cheering for the All Blacks at the World Cup and stuff. I can just relate remembering being a fan. So my fist up to the crowd was enjoying the moment with them."
Thorn said he enjoyed the moment, but he'd also moved on.
"You think anyone's going to care who won the semifinal in 2011? No one's going to care," he said. "It's about what happens this weekend, and we've got world-class opposition coming up."
He discounted France's poor display in the 9-8 semifinal win over Wales, having met the Tricolores six times for five wins in his 58-cap career.
"They've got an outstanding tight five, their loose trio's up there with ours as the best in the world, dangerous backs, great scrum, good line-out," he said. "They'll come out and probably have a blinder this weekend."
The final will be his All Blacks' swansong. He's retiring from international rugby to take up a club contract in Japan.
"To me this is pretty special. Whatever happens, this will be my last game in the black jersey. It's a really good place for me to be out there."
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