A confident John Eales says he can see parallels between the current Wallabies and the two Australian sides he captained to separate Rugby World Cup triumphs.
Eales, who helped guide the Wallabies to the Webb Ellis Cup in both 1991 and 1999, says Michael Cheika’s men have an unwavering self-belief that he reckons will be key ahead of this weekend’s historic trans-Tasman World Cup final at Twickenham.
“The key ingredient which makes this team similar to ’91 and ’99 is the belief it has and the faith that they seem to have in each other,” Eales told the Queensland Reds website.
“It’s that faith which gives them a chance to win those close games at the end.
“When Scotland scored that intercept try at the end, it would have been easy for them to drop their bundle.
“But no, there was this straight focus – ‘what do we have to do to win this game.'”
Queensland and Wallabies legend Eales is one of just four players also including Tim Horan, Jason Little and Dan Crowley to have played in both of Australia’s World Cup-winning sides, having captained the team in the 1999 tournament.
He believes the biggest challenge facing Cheika’s Wallabies ahead of their clash with New Zealand, who are also vying to become the first nation to win three World Cups, will be keeping their focus.
“It’s a week of a lot of emotions. At the end of this week you’re either going to be world champions or you’re not – one road is good and the other isn’t,” he said on Fox Sports.
“You have a lot of anxiety and how do you deal with that stress? How do you sleep?
“They can’t dwell on it, they can’t relax because they got through. They’ve got to maintain the rage and just focus on what it’s going to take (to win).
“For this Wallabies team, really, from when they played England, they’ve pretty much been playing knockout football for the last five weeks.
“The good thing is it’s been all at the same ground, so Twickenham will start to feel like a home ground for them.
“They’ve got very familiar surroundings now and that’s going to be positive for them.”
Fellow former skipper Stirling Mortlock believes having the odds stacked against them gives the Wallabies a mental advantage.
“Australians are best when we’re underdogs, when our backs are against the wall,” said Mortlock, man of the match in the Wallabies’ 2003 semi-final upset win over the All Blacks.
“We are the underdogs and we need to play a lot better to go toe to toe with the All Blacks.”