Either New Zealand or Australia will become first team to win three rugby World Cups
TWICKENHAM: Richie McCaw will lead New Zealand’s charge for a place among rugby’s all-time greats on Saturday when they take on Australia in the World Cup final at Twickenham.
A convincing win over Michael Cheika’s reborn Wallabies to become the first country to win two straight world titles — and three in all — could see this All Blacks side acclaimed as the best of all time.
A titanic battle is guaranteed for the 80,000-plus crowd who will witness the first final between two sides that have dominated rugby’s showpiece event since it started in 1987.
Except for 2007, at least one of them has been in every final. However, this is the first time they will be facing each other at the last hurdle.
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New Zealand coach Steve Hansen is banking on the experience of McCaw, fly-half great Dan Carter and their fellow Test centurion Ma’a Nonu. McCaw is at his fourth World Cup and led New Zealand to their narrow 8-7 win over France in the 2011 final.
“He’s probably the greatest player we’ve had play the game, certainly from New Zealand anyway,” said the coach.
The Twickenham final has been billed as the battle of the breakdown, McCaw leading the All Black marauders against Australia’s jackals David Pocock and Michael Hooper. A running game is in the offing from two of the world’s best attacking sides.
“The boys are feeling fresh and energised,” said Hansen. “I couldn’t be happier with where we are at. We’ll be looking to put in a performance all of us can be proud of.”
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Australian coach Cheika has played up the underdogs tag. But he has aces up his sleeve with Pocock a hot contender for player of the tournament.
And with his usual gritty determination, he added: “We want to be proud of what we do on Saturday and make Australians even more proud of us, by giving everything we’ve got.”
If the breakdown is going to be decisive, it is on the wings where the action will be. All Blacks left wing Julian Savea is the leading try-scorer in the tournament with eight, needing one more to set a World Cup record.
Adam Ashley-Cooper, tasked with stopping the giant New Zealander, scored a hat-trick in the Wallabies semi-final win over Argentina.
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New Zealand and Australia have a unique relationship where they are brothers-in-arms everywhere except the sports field, where they are the fiercest of rivals.
There is a need to settle the score this year where they have one win each, and to see which side will be the first to win a third World Cup.
“There’s nothing more competitive than Australia vs New Zealand. No matter what code, what occasion,” said Ashley-Cooper before the 2011 semi-final which New Zealand won 20-6.
New Zealand’s two World Cups have both been on home soil in 1987 and 2011. Australia won in 1991 at Twickenham and in 1999 in Cardiff.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2015.
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