by Kristian Ross
It started with twenty nations and now it’s down to the last two. Many would have predicted that a southern hemisphere showdown was possible at the start of RWC2015, but at least we now know that it will be the All Blacks and the Wallabies trying to claim rugby’s most famous prize on Saturday evening.
Needless to say the money on New Zealand making the final was always going to be a few quid well spent, with the current champions starting the tournament in a slow but steady fashion before the demolition of Tonga in the pool stages at St James Park and the thrashing of France in the quarter finals set up a meeting with fellow Rugby Championship members South Africa at the Cabbage Patch. An attritional battle followed and unusually NZ were undisciplined at the breakdown, but once again the Kiwi’s proved their worth and showed just why they are so difficult to beat, edging the Springboks by a narrow two-point margin. The familiar faces of Julian Savea, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter have all contributed to the All Blacks getting to yet another final, but it’s players such as the likes of Nehe Milner-Skudder that have once more highlighted just how much potential this side has for the future.
Meanwhile, the Wallabies had put all of their previous demons to rest, with Michael Cheika’s squad qualifying from the proverbial pool of death with minimal ease. Both the threat of Wales and England were likely to cause problems for the Australians, yet the script was well and truly torn up, as Bernard Foley took the hosts apart and destroyed their World Cup dream in the process, with David Pocock rightfully stating his claim as not only the tournaments best player, but perhaps the best in world rugby right now. Scotland caused serious problems for the Aussies at Twickenham and perhaps if it wasn’t for Craig Joubert they would have already been on the plane home. Argentina were spirited in the semi finals, but the old adage of tries win games was a true one, with Adam Ashley-Cooper’s hat-trick downing a Los Pumas side that had already embarrassed Ireland in the previous round.
This weekends final would no doubt be open and shut and it must be clearly noted that both teams have been the best at the tournament since the opening day. Australia’s expansive style of play may well catch out their most famous foes, with the likes of Drew Mitchell and Tevita Kuridrani providing pace. Foley will again aim to pull the strings from the outhalf position, the Waratahs man having seventy five points to his name at England 2015 so far. But the forward prowess of New Zealand will be hard to match, Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane will be relentless in the loose, not to mention that Dan Carter has nailed a highly impressive twenty one conversions this championship.
With yet another 80,000 strong crowd expected at Twickenham this weekend, it is with unquestionable doubt that despite the early English exit and the lack of northern hemisphere nations in the later stages of the competition, this tournament has been a total success with some describing it as the best Rugby World Cup since its inception. It’s not easy to pick a winner with these two so closely matched, but no doubt so many will try. For me it’s pretty simple… the head says the All Blacks every time…. But the heart thinks the Wallabies just might nick it.
@Kristian7Ross - 21, Geordie, part time journalist and Irish Rugby fan.
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