The Wallabies have made the most of a scheduling quirk to overcome their Twickenham hoodoo and claim a “home-ground” advantage from the All Blacks ahead of Saturday’s historic Rugby World Cup final.
The World Cup decider will be played (0300 AEDT Sunday) in front of a sell-out crowd of 82,000 fans at the home of rugby – but it will feel like home for a Wallabies outfit who have based themselves nearby and are gunning for a record fifth-straight win at the famed ground.
It’s rare for the Wallabies to feel so at ease at Twickenham – a patch of turf where they’d come unstuck more often than not before this year’s World Cup.
It’s where the Wallabies’ scrum turned to mush in 2005 and the team had suffered repeated heartbreak – although not all memories at the ground are negative, as their 1991 World Cup triumph proves.
Through a lucky break in the draw, Australia have been able to base themselves in London from the midway point of their pool stage and played all their knockout fixtures at Twickenham.
It’s led to them winning four consecutive games at the ground – with wins over England, Wales, Scotland and Argentina – for the first time in their history.
Before this tournament, their previous best win streak there was a mere two games in a row, a feat they’d only achieved twice.
And with friends and family joining them at their base in Teddington in London’s southwest, just a short drive from Twickenham, the Wallabies might as well be staying in Sydney, Canberra or Brisbane.
Meanwhile, defending champions New Zealand have traipsed across the United Kingdom – starting with fixtures in London before playing in Cardiff, then Newcastle, and back to Cardiff before returning to London for last week’s semi-final win over South Africa.
That’s more than 1500km of road travel in a month and certainly no way to feel at home.
“I enjoy it, personally – you’re familiar with it,” said Wallabies second-rower Rob Simmons.
“It’s something where you know what you’re going to get and to be with familiar with a place, it’s just like being at home really.”
Support in the stands has been slow to come for the Wallabies, who knocked off home favourites England, Wales and Scotland in successive weeks in front of parochial crowds at Twickenham.
Even in the two matches prior, against Fiji and Uruguay, the stands were filled with local fans who sang “Swing Low” with more fervour than the national anthems of Australia’s opponents.
But coach Michael Cheika has sensed a change in momentum in the past fortnight, not least of all because of the appearance of Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak in the winning dressing room following the Argentina clash.
“I’ve learnt a lot about national pride from the time I’ve spent with the team in this environment,” he said.
“The crowd has got more gold as we’ve gone along but we’ve pretty much been the away team the whole way through but our supporters at the ground have been unbelievable.”