The France captain, Thierry Dusautoir, queried a number of decisions with Joubert and was particularly incensed when, after play had been allowed to continue for nearly two minutes while the fly-half Morgan Parra was receiving treatment for a head injury, Joubert called a halt while Aaron Cruden received lengthy treatment after twisting a knee.
Lièvremont said he had made a pact with himself after meeting Joubert two days before the game that, no matter what happened, he would not criticise the referee or make accusations against him in defeat.
The France scrum-half, Dimitri Yachvili, had no such qualms. “The referee was under a lot of pressure,” he said. “He did not want us to win.That said, I think New Zealand deserved their win because they are the best team in the world. They have shown that throughout the tournament.”
Dusautoir was questioning Joubert from the opening minutes when France were penalised at a scrum even though the All Blacks prop Owen Franks had dropped to his knees, and when Richie McCaw forced a vital turnover four minutes from time, the France captain turned to the touch judge Nigel Owens insisting that the New Zealand captain had been offside.
“I am very disappointed with the result but I do not feel like criticising the referee,” said Dusautoir. “He is one of the best in the world and we did not do enough to get the vital penalty we needed at the end.”
France were unrecognisable from the side that had plodded their way to victory over 14-man Wales in the semi-final. They made only 55 passes that day, most courtesy of Yachvili, but the figure in the final was 145 and they kicked less often than the All Blacks despite enjoying more possession.
Their three-quarters carried the ball over 115 metres compared to 14 eight days before.
“A lot was said and written about us during the tournament but we knew the pride we had in the jersey,” said Yachvili. “We knew what the team spirit was really like and the thing about the French is that we play with our hearts.
“We had a lot of solidarity as we showed in the final. We have a number of leaders in the team and a lot of experience. We were confident, despite what everyone else seemed to think, that we were good enough to win.”
France showed their intention from the kick-off when they formed a chevron to face the haka and, when the All Blacks were halfway through the war chant, the French players advanced in a single line, crossing halfway in defiance of an International Rugby Board edict.
“We wanted to start the game with the haka and it was a good moment,” said Yachvili. “We were determined to show the All Blacks what we had and it was a good moment. I am proud of what we did today, but it was just not quite enough.”
Pride was the word used by Lièvremont, who had spent much of the tournament berating his players. “I want to thank them,” he said. “It was one-way traffic in the second half and we lost by the smallest of margins. The players made promises to themselves and they kept them.”