Is Rugby World Cup final a forgone conclusion for Australia?
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | October 28, 2015
“They are the world’s number one and we have only beaten them once in the last 10 matches, so they will be feeling they have got our measure.” Australia coach Michael Cheika’s assessment of Rugby World Cup final foes New Zealand is certainly backed up by the odds.
Coral make the All Blacks odds-on 4/11 favourites to retain the trophy, while the Wallabies are 9/4 outsiders to get their hands on the Webb Ellis Cup, and recent history – one Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship victory aside – clearly points to defeat for the Aussies.
It’s a fifth successive weekend on the Twickenham turf for Australia, where they eliminated tournament host nation England, out-kicked Wales and edged Scotland before bettering injury-hit Argentina in the second semi-final.
Cheika: Aussies must ‘do something special’
Impressive as knocking off three of the four British nations and then Ireland’s conquerors is, Cheika has downplayed the Wallabies’ chances of upsetting fellow unbeaten performers New Zealand.
“It’s going to be up to us to do something special, something extra just to be competitive,” he said. Admitting that is a far cry from the usual Aussie sporting mentality, complete with sledging during countless Ashes series on British soil and Down Under.
Being strong in the tackle is hardly something Australia have shrunk from en route to this third All Blacks encounter of 2015 with one win apiece from the previous battles. In three of their latest four Rugby World Cup outings, the Wallabies have put in more than 100 challenges, peaking at an impressive 142 against the Pumas.
Pocock pinching possession key
That physicality forced influential Argentina players, including top try threat Juan Imhoff, from the field but, if his hat-trick against France is any indicator, such treatment is unlikely to faze Kiwi counterpart Julian Savea.
We’re seeing the best physical specimens on show in this Rugby World Cup final, including Aussie number eight David Pocock. His dirty work at breakdowns – individually contributing 14 possession turnovers at the tournament – has been heralded by fellow back row player Michael Hooper.
“You’ve got to want to put your head in there to get the result,” Hooper explained. “Pocock puts his head into some places that are pretty dangerous and gets the ball out. Not only does he win penalties, he gets a clean steal and that can change the momentum of the game really well.”
New Zealand, impressive in a different manner with the way they outlasted South Africa to make another final, will not simply surrender the ball without a fight, so Pocock will have to play at his very best again to nick it back for the Wallabies.
All Blacks have to contain Ashley-Cooper
It would be wrong to bill this battle as one-way traffic, though. The Kiwis are coming up against Aussie hat-trick hero Adam Ashley-Cooper, who did his own impressive imitation of Savea in the semis.
The Wallabies wing has crossed for nine career tries against New Zealand, including earlier this year, last and in 2013. Such a regular threat makes Ashley-Cooper a real nuisance for the All Blacks to deal with.
Impressive as his scoring stats are, the Kiwis possess a centre in Ma’a Nonu who has gone over 10 times when previously paired with Australia. Are New Zealand better in every department, then? We’ll find out on Saturday, October 31st.
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