The Wallabies are banking on experience over tricky footwork and brains over brawn in the Rugby World Cup final showdown between four of the game’s outstanding wingers.
With 14 World Cup tries to his name, Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell is one away from equalling the record feats of All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu – but might have to get through the man most compare to Lomu, Julian ‘the Bus’ Savea, to snatch it.
Savea evoked memories of Lomu’s famous 1995 World Cup try against England when he bumped off three French defenders on his way to the line a fortnight ago, and has already overtaken his hero on the tryscoring lists – racking up his 38th in just 40 Tests, compared to Lomu’s 37 from 63.
He’s also notched eight tries already this tournament, equalling the record shared by Lomu and South African speedster Bryan Habana.
But if Savea’s brutal physicality is intimidating, the same must be said for teammate Nehe Milner-Skudder whose dazzling footwork has delivered seven tries in as many Tests.
The way Australia attack and defend, Mitchell could just as easily find himself on either wing – and staring at equally fearsome opponents, and he’s not sure who presents the easier assignment.
“Neither of them – they’ll make you look silly,” he said.
“Both of them have different skill sets and pose different threats but also very dangerous.
“I think like anyone with those types of skill sets, you want to reduce the amount of time they’ve got.
“Just get up and try and reduce that space when they get the ball and when you’re trying to attempt that tackle and hope for a bit of support.”
The 31-year-old Mitchell is hopeful the many years’ experience with Adam Ashley-Cooper will give them the upper hand in any personal battles, despite being outmatched in footwork, brute strength and, he admits, possibly even speed.
“I don’t know the trade off – perhaps we’re a little bit slower than these guys,” Mitchell said.
“We’re most certainly not as big as, well, one of them and probably don’t have the footwork as the other but we’d hope that we bring our own skill sets and one that benefits our side.
“For me as a winger today, compared to what I was when I was younger, I would hope that I’m a more rounded player and, with the experience that I’ve picked up on the way, can find myself in positions that I probably wouldn’t have been able to when I was at that age.
“These guys as young as they are still seem to find themselves in some pretty good positions.”