AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – Well done, fans of afternoon kick-offs: you got your wish. Despite all evidence being against the claim that rugby in the daylight is somehow more exciting, the Rugby World Cup final will kick off at 4pm. Only problem is that’s 4pm London time. Which means the home audiences of the two countries playing will be watching the game at 5am and 3am respectively.
A little odd, given that we needed to have the 2011 final, played in Auckland, kick off at 9pm (the time a usual televised game is finishing), so it would be convenient for European viewers.It would be nice if they moved the kickoff a bit later. In fact, it’d be nice if they moved the game back to Sydney or Auckland. But neither of those things will happen.
Instead, we’ll see the Webb Ellis Cup awarded at Twickenham for just the second time. The last time, in 1991, is a moment that Australian fans remember fondly – and which the Wallabies will be hoping to repeat. They beat England 12-6, tricking the opposition into trying to play an expansive game by goading them through the media. That sort of tactic is nothing new for Australian sport: back in the old days, the press would ask Don Bradman who he felt the toughest English bowlers for an upcoming Ashes Test were. Knowing that the English selectors would take his opinion seriously, he’d deliberately tell them the worst ones he could think of. No wonder he averaged 99.94. sorry to the yanks that don’t get the Cricket joke.
This is the first time the All Blacks and Wallabies have played each other in a World Cup final, but they’ve been in three each, both winning two. Thanks to The Rugby Championship, these two teams probably know one other like the back of their hands by now. They’ve clashed 11 times since they met in the 2011 RWC semi-final – and the All Blacks have mostly been the victor, with just one win and two draws under the Wallabies’ belt.
Meanwhile, a look at the All Blacks’ wins reveals a very telling statistic: over the last four seasons, the average winning margin has been a shade under 16 points. Only one All Black victory bucked that trend – the 29-28 triumph at Suncorp Stadium last year.
Another trend has been the Wallabies’ fast starts: they flew out of the blocks against England, built up a decent lead against Wales and were more or less handed victory in the first 10 minutes last week against the Pumas. After beginning with a bang, they then settle back into a defensive pattern and let teams tire themselves out trying to crack their line.
The All Blacks, on the other hand, have had slow starts against Argentina, Georgia and Tonga before closing each game out. Arguably, the most impressive part of their massacre of the French was their ability to raise an already high tempo to unbelievable levels in the second half.
The closeness of the scoreline in last week’s All Blacks game against the Springboks shouldn’t cloud the fact that New Zealand controlled territory and possession for those critical final stages.
These factors paint what might be an uphill battle for the Wallabies: they need to get out to a fast start, but even if they do, the All Blacks have the pedigree to run them down. A lead of at least 15 would need to be established if they were to feel confident of shutting down and tackling their way to victory.
Man To Watch
All eyes are on Dan Carter in his last match for the All Blacks. The leading points scorer in Test history gets the final he was denied four years ago, against the team who saw his timely return to form back at Eden Park in August.
The key for the All Blacks is to get things working up front early and often. The Wallabies’ scrum got banged up by the Pumas last weekend, so that’ll be a target. Bernard Foley can expect some serious attention from the All Blacks’ loose forwards, provided they don’t have their hands full dealing with David Pocock and Michael Hooper. Even so, the All Blacks backs still possess enough firepower to turn even the most meagre scraps of possession into points from a counter-attack.
All Blacks 30, Wallabies 13
How they line up
Wallabies: 1-Scott Sio; 2-Stephen Moore (captain); 3-Sekope Kepu; 4-Kane Douglas; 5-Rob Simmons; 6-Scott Fardy; 7-Michael Hooper; 8-David Pocock; 9-Will Genia; 10-Bernard Foley; 11-Drew Mitchell; 12-Matt Giteau; 13-Tevita Kuridrani; 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper; 15-Israel Folau.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.
All Blacks: 1-Joe Moody; 2-Dane Coles; 3-Owen Franks; 4-Brodie Retallick; 5-Sam Whitelock; 6-Jerome Kaino; 7-Richie McCaw (captain); 8-Kieran Read; 9-Aaron Smith; 10-Dan Carter; 11-Julian Savea; 12-Ma’a Nonu; 13-Conrad Smith; 14-Nehe Milner-Skudder; 15-Ben Smith.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.
Rugby World Cup Final
Date: Saturday, October 31 (Sunday, November 1st (NZT))
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 4:00 PM GMT, 12:00 PM EST, 5:00 AM NZT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Wayne Barnes (England)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Courtesy of RWU’s Jaime Wall
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