John Eric Paul Mitchell has first-hand experience of World Cup heartache, but he is adamant his successor, Graham Henry, will get to taste success on the biggest stage in the game.
Mitchell, the current coach of the Johannesburg-based Lions, was in charge when the All Blacks were knocked out by the Wallabies in the semifinal of the 2003 World Cup.
That disappointing result played a major part in Mitchell not regaining the All Blacks coaching position when the New Zealand Rugby Union called for candidates for the position.
Henry, who took over the All Black mentoring mantel in 2004, saw his team knocked out by France in 2007 World Cup quarterfinal, but retained his job.
On Sunday, in Auckland, Henry will get a chance to atone for that mishap when the Kiwis take on France in the 2011 Final.
And Mitchell believes Henry will walk away a winner.
"New Zealand deserve to be there [in the Final]," Mitchell told this website in an exclusive interview.
"We have heard that France don't deserve to be there," he said of a French team that lost twice in the pool stages, the first team to each the play-offs, let alone the Final, of the World Cup after being beaten twice.
"However, at the end of the day it is a tournament and they have won the right to be there, regardless of their form," Mitchell added.
He said Les Blues have been "very French" in their approach and they probably also haven't won many people over with their style of rugby.
The Lions mentor, who will see his team take on Western Province in a Currie Cup semifinal a day before the All Blacks' World Cup Final appearance, admitted that in play-off matches anything can happen.
"There has been plenty of accolades for the All Black players and coaching staff," he said, adding: "However, they have spoken about being aware of the French.
"They [the French] have turned up before and a lot of this group have experienced that heartache [in losing to France in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinal].
"The reason why I think New Zealand will win the World Cup is there are a few boys there going into their third campaign now.
"They have experienced that extreme hurt and [learnt] some lessons from the past .... there is no way, I think, they will let this one go now, especially that they are in the Final and can make it happen.
"Also, they will feed off the energy and excitement of the country."
By Jan de Koning
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