Relief and satisfaction were the overwhelming emotions coursing through Owen Franks’ substantial frame after Saturday’s World Cup final win over Australia.
Franks is now one of New Zealand’s double World Cup winners, having started all seven matches when they won the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011, and featured in six out of seven this time (coming off the bench just once).
The tighthead prop agreed with skipper Richie McCaw when he said their 2015 win had a different flavour from the ultra-fizzy 2011 vintage. “It’s a huge relief. All the work we have put in over the last four years and the goals we have set, we have achieved them,” Franks said after the final victory at Twickenham.
“A lot of hard work goes into winning a World Cup – it’s a long time away from your family and it’s tough to win. Winning all those games throughout the four years would have counted for nothing if we had lost today, but we won and put the icing on the cake.”
Franks said the All Blacks are particularly satisfied to have lifted the Webb Elis Cup away from home soil, after winning it in New Zealand in 1987 and 2011. “People expected us to win in New Zealand but to win it in Europe for us hasn’t been done. And no one has ever done it back to back before. It makes you feel pretty proud. It’s no secret it was our goal to win two World Cups back to back and be one of the greatest teams.”
The level of expectation was so high in the New Zealand camp that while some leading nations were battling for their lives during the pool stages, Franks said the tournament didn’t “come alive” for him until the knockout phase.
“During the pool play you were just waiting for the real stuff to get going. The last three weeks has been massive. I am pretty glad it’s over.”
It might seem surprising to hear Franks admit that, but he is just being brutally honest about his England 2015 experience. “They put on a great tournament. As far as enjoying it, I don’t know if I enjoyed it, as a lot of pressure and hard work goes into winning it. I am just glad we got the job done.
“There were moments during this week when we had a chance to let our hair down and forget about the game a bit. We got a day off during each week and you could do what you wanted on those days, but we got together as a team twice a week and went out for dinner.”
His older brother Ben was with him in the All Blacks squad and his wife and seven-month-old son, his parents-in-law, his dad and his wife’s granddad were all at Twickenham to make the final a real family affair. The Franks clan must have been on the edge of their seats when Australia fought back from 21-3 down after 42 minutes to 21-17 down just 20 minutes later, but, from his position on the bench (having been replaced late in the third quarter) Owen was confident his team-mates weren’t about to buckle under pressure, like in the past.
“I was a bit nervous but I knew those were the situations we train for. We train ourselves to stay calm and not panic and I knew we would get the job done,” Franks says.
With the World Cup final over and the celebrations just beginning, the tighthead was confident an enjoyable party awaited, as well as a big welcome home from the rugby public in New Zealand. Franks is hoping to add to his 78 caps during 2016, in what will be a new-look All Blacks side following the Test retirements of McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and the like. He doesn’t feel ready just yet to put into words how it feels to have played alongside such all-time greats for the last six years.
“When you are retiring and you look back on the players you played with, you will be pretty glad you got to rub shoulders with them and play a lot of Test matches with them. It’s pretty cool,” he says. “We are a team that doesn’t get ahead of ourselves. We train really hard and put a lot of pressure on each other to perform and to have fun while we’re doing it.
“There’s always a young star coming through and, as great as these guys are, someone will come through and fill their shoes.”
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