The two best sides in the world have never met in a Rugby World Cup final… until now. New Zealand vs Australia is the final this tournament deserves.
Both sides are attempting to become the first team to win the Rugby World Cup three times. The All Blacks have another history-making ambition, to become the first team ever to retain the Web Ellis Cup.
Both are more than capable of cutting loose, although finals haven’t typically been spectacles of running rugby: apart from the first in 1987, no Rugby World Cup final has had more than two tries.
Jokers, lovers, fighters
Aussie coach Michael Cheika has celebrated the diversity of characters in his squad, from climate change activist David Pocock to outspoken Christian Israel Folau.
“I won’t say we’ve got anyone on the extreme right in the way we think, but we’ve got the extreme left and centre right. We’ve got the jokers, the lovers, the fighters,” Cheika said.
Of course, when it comes to characters few players can hold a candle to Richie McCaw. New Zealand’s captain and most-capped player is expected to retire after this World Cup. His countrymen cannot imagine the great man bowing out with just a runners-up medal.
Australia have only beaten the All Blacks once in the past 12 games – the good news is that that win came only a few months ago in the Rugby Championship. Michael Hooper and David Pocock robbed the New Zealanders time and again in the ruck, setting up a 27-19 victory.
Last five matches
New Zealand 41 Australia 13 (15 August 2015)
Australia 27 New Zealand 19 (8 August 2015)
Australia 28 New Zealand 29 (18 October 2014)
New Zealand 51 Australia 20 (23 August 2014)
Australia 12 New Zealand 12 (16 August 2014)