Sir Wilson Whineray, regarded as one of the greatest New Zealand rugby captains, said the World Cup would still be a "joy" for the country even if France beat the home side in Sunday's Final.
In a front-page editorial for Saturday's New Zealand Herald, Whineray - captain in 30 of his 32 Tests, said: "Whatever happens, we should applaud the All Blacks, and all those throughout the nation who have helped to make this tournament such a joy."
And the day after the front page of the Herald's sports section was devoted entirely to two articles ("A history of Gallic brutality" and "Beware the filth of the French, a column by former New Zealand captain Wayne Shelford), attacking France, Whineray urged his compatriots to be sporting if their side lost.
"While it has been a memorable cup, New Zealand should also be ready for the wrong result tomorrow night. France is also a proud nation. Win or lose, we will be humble and gracious, no matter what happens.
"If things don't go as well as we would hope tomorrow night, remember the team has done wonderfully well.
"One of the glories of sport is that there is always a winner and a loser. No one has a monopoly on winning in sport. Fortunately, winning is never forever - but neither is defeat," he pointed out.
The 76-year-old former prop said this World Cup, the first to be staged solely in New Zealand after it co-hosted the inaugural 1987 edition with Australia, had been a success on all fronts.
"Tomorrow night we come to the end of a fabulous journey, both as All Blacks and as a nation," he said.
"The country has celebrated the Rugby World Cup tournament, embraced it, rejoiced in it and relished what it has brought to us.
"What a marvellous event, reminding us what rugby can be, what it means to the country and how sport can put a smile on a nation's face in difficult times," Whineray said in a reference to the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, Pike River colliery disaster and the recent oil spill in the Bay of Plenty.
New Zealand have won the World Cup just once, when they beat France 29-9 in the tournament's maiden Final at Eden Park 24 years ago.
"The All Blacks can emulate the team of 1987 and win the Webb Ellis Cup at Eden Park tomorrow night," Whineray said. "There are no weaknesses. Many of the finest players in the world are in this team."
He added: "To my mind an All Black victory would ice the World Cup tournament cake perfectly; the host nation celebrating its achievement in organising a wonderful event in the best possible fashion.
"My main happiness in all this is how well the tournament has gone. It has been fantastic for the country, and difficult to fault."
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