The Trans-Tasmanian rivals are at it again. This will be the first ever World Cup final between two of rugby’s fiercest competitors.
It was always going to be a battle of Southern Hemisphere teams after no Northern hemisphere team managed to make the semis, but the semis weren’t as straightforward an affair as most expected them to be. The Pumas pushed the Wallabies to their limit, and the South African Springboks shook off their rust to give the All Blacks an almighty scare till the final twenty minutes of their game.
But the favorites prevailed, and they were not to be denied a tryst with their destiny.
This time, however, unlike in the Cricket World Cup 2015 final
– where the two same teams battled for the cup – it’s the ‘little brothers’ who’re overwhelming favorites, as has mostly been the case in rugby over the last decade. In a way, New Zealand is to rugby what Australia is to cricket, and the Wallabies were underdogs before entering the World Cup just like the Kiwis were not expected to reach the final in the cricket tournament. Talk about role reversals – but will fortunes reverse too?
Both teams have won 10 games this year and lost just one. Australia is the only team to beat New Zealand this year.
The Wallabies have won only one of their last 12 tests against the All Blacks. But they lead the World Cup meetings battle 2 to 1, and all three have been semifinal meetings. They knocked out New Zealand from the 1991 and 2003 tournaments, before being knocked out in the 2011 semifinal – a tournament New Zealand went on to famously win against France 8-7 in the final.
However, they have been the team with the most heart throughout this tournament, and have come out bruised and battered from the toughest group stage in World Cup history
(beat Wales, beat England), followed by a near-shock against the brave Scottish team, and a physical, punishing battle against an inspired Argentinian team. Their progress has been anything but straightforward – and a lot of Australian fans were seen looking away from the pitch when there was less than a minute to go in the quarterfinal against Scotland, and they were 2 down,
until that fateful penalty was given. With seconds to go, Bernard Foley
kicked it right through the posts from an angle,
and gave the Wallabies a last-gasp win against perhaps the only team from the Northern Hemisphere that looked like going all the way.
The All Blacks meanwhile have sailed through the tournament as only favorites can. They hadn’t even clicked into third gear in the group stages, and under captain Richie McCaw, they’ve stepped it up in the knockouts.
Expected line up:
WALLABIES: Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (captain), James Slipper, Kane Douglas, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau.
ALL BLACKS: Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Dan Carter, Julian Savea, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ben Smith