Six weeks of thrilling rugby come to an end today when New Zealand and Australia face off for the Webb Ellis Trophy.
The first ever Antipodean final has the potential to be the best ever as both teams boast phenomenal attacking weapons reflected in the 61 tries they have run in between them (Australia 26 and New Zealand 35), with the likely retirement of 147 cap legend McCaw a poignant sub-
The first ever Antipodean final has the potential to be the best ever as both teams boast phenomenal attacking weapons reflected in the 61 tries they have run in between them (Australia 26 and New Zealand 35), with the likely retirement of 147 cap legend McCaw a poignant sub-plot.
This one is going to go down to the wire with both teams generally well matched across the board and knowing each other inside out.
Let’s take a look at some of the key areas of today’s match:
1. Scrum: The loss of the evergreen Tony Woodcock led to some scrum wobbles against the Boks but the All Blacks set-piece has generally been solid while the Aussie scrum has been a revelation this tournament and the return of Scott Sio at Loose head (if he is fully fit) is a big boost for Oz. I expect honours to be even.
2. Line-out: Honours even here again with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock athletic jumpers who are able to pinch opposition ball with Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read alternative options at the tail. While the abrasive Kane Douglas and the industrious Rob Simmons are quality jumpers who provide Australia with a reliable source of lineout ball, and David Pocock an useful altenative option to boot.
3. The breakdown: The most talked about area in the build-up with the form player of the tournament David Pocock up against the outstanding Richie McCaw. Pocock tops the turnover stats with 15 while McCaw has been highly impressive as well, and Pocock in tandem with the irrepressible Michael Hooper vs McCaw and the influential Kieran Read promises to be a battle royal.
The Sprinboks gave the All Blacks plenty of problems at the breakdown in the 1st half last week before the All Blacks shored things up in the second half. Pocock and co will take heart from this as well as how they ruled the roost in their Sydney clash back in the Summer. But expect the All Blacks to have something up their sleeves to negate ‘Pooper’ and I don’t expect the Aussies to dominate this area-honours even here as well.
But in the crucial goal kicking stakes I think New Zealand have the edge. In Dan Carter they have the World’s leading points scorer who rarely misses a kick while Brendan Foley despite enjoying a generally impressive tournament with the boot, doesn’t boast the same dead-eye accuracy as the peerless Carter. And in a tight final kicks will be all important.
While both backlines ooze class and creative talent I feel that New Zealand’s backline has the edge over their Aussie counterparts, due to their collective experience I believe that Aaron Smith,Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Conrad and Ben Smith, and Nehe Milner-Skudder can ask serious questions of the Aussie defence which looked shaky at times against Argentina.
Topping the charts for the least tries conceded this tournment, the New Zealand defence has been nearly impenetrable. Despite the likes of: B Foley, Giteau and Kudriani, Ashley-Cooper, Drew Mitchell and Israel Folau, I feel that the All Blacks will edge the defensive battle. Of course the Wallabies with the talent they have are going to cause Carter and co some problems but I feel that they will be able to neutralise their rivals more effectively due to their superior defence.
Its going to be very tight but I’m going for New Zealand by 5 due to their superior defence, their edge in attack and their greater experience (a good number of their players have been here before).