Former All Blacks stalwart Craig Dowd reckons the Wallabies are “the complete package” and should be favourites for the Rugby World Cup final.
Dowd, who played 60 Tests for New Zealand between 1993 and 2000, says Australia’s performances in this year’s Rugby Championship should leave New Zealand worried.
“Much as it pains me to say it, Australia have to be the favourites going into the Webb Ellis Cup final on Saturday,” the former prop wrote in his ESPNscrum column.
“They are 1-1 with the All Blacks for the year, but they won the Rugby Championship and scored more competition points so that has to give them the favouritism.”
Dowd believed the two unbeaten teams were equal almost all over the park, however he pointed to the Wallabies’ lightening speed both out wide and amongst the loose forwards as reasons why Australia could claim just their fourth win in their past 25 outings against New Zealand.
“At the moment Australia are the complete package,” he said.
“If you look at all the areas in the game of rugby, they have improved in each one: look at where their scrum has been in recent times, or the lineout, the breakdown, the 9-10 combination, the midfield pairing, they’ve got some X-factor on the wing; there’s no weakness and I think Australia have come of age.”
Dowd also said he expected the All Blacks to target Bernard Foley in defence.
He pointed to former world player of the year, No.8 Kieran Read as a player who must improve for the All Blacks.
“He (Read) has been quiet. He’s made more errors than we are used to seeing from him, and he needs a big game.
“He just hasn’t shown what we all know he is capable of. I’m sure and I hope Read’s going to get the message this week.”