Australia have been warned that they risk a World Cup final nightmare if they serve up an ill-disciplined display similar to that which plagued their semi-final win over Argentina.
Australia ran in four tries to nil against Los Pumas, but were unable to shake their tenacious Rugby Championship rivals until the final 10 minutes – with Argentina No.10 Nicolas Sanchez booting five penalty goals to keep them within reach until the dying moments.
It’s a major concern for Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, not least of all because the All Blacks are blessed with world rugby’s all-time leading pointscorer in Dan Carter, who will have the added motivation of playing in his final ever Test match.
Carter has the most conversions (291) and penalty goals (277) in international rugby history and, having kicked 27 from 34 attempts this World Cup at 79.4 per cent, his radar is slightly better tuned than his Wallabies’ counterpart Bernard Foley, who is kicking at 78.1 per cent.
With the All Blacks also possessing a potent backline which has helped them score more tries than any other nation this World Cup (36 to Australia’s 26), it highlights just how important it will be to deny Carter free shots at goal through ill-discipline at the breakdown, scrum and anywhere else in their own half.
“It’s going to have to be,” said lock Rob Simmons, when asked if discipline would be a focus at training this weekend.
“You saw they stayed in touch in the scoreboard just all through penalties.
“We didn’t let a try in but they were still in touch in the game with kicking it over.
“It’s something we’re going to have to be well disciplined on.
“We’re always trying to do the right thing and trying to do everything in the legal way.
“Sometimes you get taken off your feet and you’re stuck in a ruck.
“We’ve just got to be smart with it and play the game with a hard physical edge and hopefully get the dominance there.”
Referees have also shown a willingness to send players to the sin-bin, with Argentina’s Tomas Lavanini, New Zealand’s Jerome Kaino and South Africa’s Bryan Habana all being shown yellow cards for foul play in the semi-final clashes.
To veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper the message is clear: don’t give the match officials a reason to blow that whistle.
“You are seeing a lot of TMO calls, yellow cards and seeing teams staying in games with ill-discipline,” he said.
“That’s something we are going to have to address with our review.
“You just can’t afford to be ill-disciplined in your own 50, because teams are just too good.
“Those three points, the ability to tick over a scoreboard is so vital in a test match and it plays a big role mentally on the opposition.
“You can’t afford to give any rival a leg-up, three points at a time.”