Legendary status awaits the New Zealand, but Australia have what it takes to upset destiny
They’re the best of friends and the worst of enemies and Australia and New Zealand wouldn’t want it any other way. On Saturday the two Antipodean states lock horns for what’s likely to be a fiercely-contested Rugby World Cup final with history beckoning for the winner.
No nation has lifted the Webb Ellis trophy on three occasions but the double World Cup winners go head-to-head at Twickenham in only the second all southern-hemisphere final in RWC history, looking to claim a hat-trick of titles.
There’s a deep and enduring love-hate relationship between the Pacific nations and it’s the first time the two countries from across the Tasman have met at this stage. It feels rather fitting that the Home of Rugby will host such a fixture, especially with the two best sides in the world on show.
The All Blacks unsurprisingly have been chalked up as 2/5 favourites to come out on top. The pre-tournament favourites hold the upper hand in head-to-head duels against their neighbours, winning 105/154 all-time match-ups and losing just once in their past 12 meetings.
In five of the past eight battles, the Kiwis have come out on top by eight points or more and interestingly, the previous seven World Cup finals have been claimed by an average margin of 8.4 points. However, two results push that average up significantly and three of the last five have been settled by three points or fewer.
Indeed five showpiece games were decided by single figures with extra-time required to split the sides in 1995 and 2003. All bar one of the seven RWC finals have featured 38 points or fewer, cementing the view that Saturday’s meeting is likely to be tense and closely run.
Just like all previous World Cup winners, these two come into the final on the back of a 100% record in the group stage. The Wallabies deservedly made plenty of headlines thanks to their outstanding performances when topping Pool A, dubbed the ‘Group of Death’, and Michael Cheika’s men proceeded to squeeze past Scotland and see off Argentina impressively to book their place on Saturday.
The Green and Gold made a fast start against the Pumas on Sunday and went on to cross the whitewash four times in their 29-15 win. Australia were full value for the victory, which keeps their fantastic 2015 form intact – the Wallabies have won nine of their 10 matches this year games with their only defeat coming in New Zealand. They also won the, albeit shortened, Rugby Championship.
Cheika’s worked wonders on the Wallabies and transformed the side from no-hopers into finalists. Mario Ledesma’s helped to tighten up the scrum so with a strong set-piece, world class strike-runners, playmakers at 10 and 12 and a ferocity for winning turnover ball, the Wallabies will not go down without a ferocious fight.
You do feel that Australian success is likely to rely on the effectiveness of David Pocock and Michael Hooper’s efforts at the breakdown. The duo have wreaked havoc on the floor all tournament and it’s no exaggeration to say the Green and Gold have two of the most effective jackals in the business.
However, New Zealand are vying to become the first nation to successful retain the Rugby World Cup and like their rivals, Steve Hansen’s side have been in formidable form. That Bledisloe Cup loss in Sydney back in August is their only reverse in 16 matches and since winning the 2011 competition, the Kiwis have bagged a remarkable W48-D3-L2.
The All Blacks first major test of the tournament came last time out against South Africa; trailing by five points at half-time and with a player in the sin bin, New Zealand’s attacking rugby proved too good for the Springboks and their 2-0 try count ultimately proved decisive.
There’s no doubt this All Blacks group is amongst the best we’ve ever seen and they fully deserve their tag as title favourites. Their experience, game-breaking class, star-studded bench and proven big-match performers should see the unstoppable force concludes the competitions as winners but it might not be as convincing as they’d hope for.
The Aussies are rarely embarrassing and the significant improvements made in the past 12 months just cannot be ignored. Ultimately, it’s hard to see past the All Blacks but in traditional with previous tight finals, a winning margin by 1-12 points looks to be about the best angle to take for pro-Kiwis punters.
New Zealand v Australia – New Zealand to win by 1-12 points (11/8)
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.