New Zealand have named an unchanged side for the World Cup showdown with Australia highlighting the weight they are putting on Richie McCaw and Dan Carter to secure victory.
Coach Steve Hansen maintained faith in the team that narrowly beat South Africa 20-18 in their semi-final for Saturday’s Twickenham showdown that has been billed as the battle of the back rows.
Flanker McCaw, who led the All Blacks to the 2011 World Cup victory, is “the greatest player who has ever played the game” Hansen said with Carter, the world’s leading point scorer a “special player” as well.
Between them they contribute 258 Tests to the combined 1,339 caps of New Zealand’s match-day 23.
“Experience is massive. There’s two types of experiences; the ones you learn from and the ones you don’t and hopefully we’ve learned enough,” Hansen said.
“Mental fortitude and physical endurance, together with skill execution and sheer desire, will be the key ingredients come Saturday.”
McCaw acknowledged the outcome of the final could hinge on the loose forwards where he, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read will be be up against Wallabies expert scavengers Michael Hooper, David Pocock and Scott Fardy.
“We realise we need to be on the job and limit their influence as much as possible and hopefully our back row can impose themselves,” McCaw said.
The inspirational captain said he has put back a decision on whether to retire until after the final.
McCaw, 34, has indicated several times this year he would bow out after the tournament. Team management have also spoken as if Saturday’s final will be his last Test.
“I’ll make a decision when I get home,” he said. “I want to play this weekend and that (retirement) hasn’t entered my mind this week.
“I’ve made no secret I’m going to have a good reflect on things after this.” McCaw has played a world record 147 Tests.
The unchanged side leaves replacement prop Joe Moody in the run-on side.
Wyatt Crockett who suffered a groin injury ahead of the South Africa match, would have been on the bench for Saturday but broke down again shortly before Hansen unveiled his side.
The All Blacks and Wallabies are both seeking to be the first side to win the World Cup three times. The All Blacks are also bidding to win the cup for the first time away from home and to be the first team to win consecutive titles.
Australia’s two World Cup successes have both been in the northern hemisphere.
“The ultimate goal has always been to win it, so we are exactly where we need to be to try and achieve that,” Hansen said.
“We came here as contenders for the cup, just like everyone else. In our minds, we have never been defenders. We knew we would have to earn the right to progress through the tournament.
“Both teams have arrived at the final by different pathways. We’ve had the luxury of building game by game throughout the whole tournament, whilst Australia have had to be at their very best right from day one.”
The Wallabies had to beat four world top 10 sides in their six matches to make the final — Wales, Scotland, England and Argentina. The All Blacks faced Argentina, France and South Africa.