All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is predicting a more spectacular Rugby World Cup final than when the All Blacks claimed the crown four years ago.
World Cup playoff games are traditionally tight affairs and the finals are notoriously tense, no more so than the 2011 final when hosts New Zealand squeaked past France 8-7 at Eden Park to end their title drought.
Hansen believes the style of game adopted this year by his team and Australia lends itself towards a vibrant spectacle at Twickenham on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).
“The pressure will be on both teams, but I don’t think that will inhibit either one of them,” said Hansen, who was an assistant coach to Graham Henry at the 2011 World Cup.
“The Australian team will play to their strengths, and we will play to ours. Given the conditions are OK, I think we will see some running rugby. Whether that results in a lot of tries depends on how good the defences are.”
Hansen says he has left no stone unturned in the preparation and is delighted by his team’s unbeaten run at the tournament.
They had struggled at times through pool play against weaker nations but hit their straps in the quarter-final of thumping before unveiling their character in last week’s two-point semi-final win over South Africa.
Now regarded as one of the greatest teams of any era, Hansen says nothing is guaranteed on the biggest stage against motivated opponents.
“We are looking forward to tomorrow immensely. I know, win or lose, we will put in a performance we will be proud of,” he said.
“If that’s good enough to win, great. If not, we will look at ourselves and ask what we need to do better.
“But we won’t be inhibited by the occasion. This group is in a good place and excited about what’s coming, and we’ve got a bit of talent, so if we play well, the result might come our way.”
Hansen’s counterpart Michael Cheika, who has claimed the underdog status all week, doesn’t necessarily agree that the final will be an open affair.
He expects a vastly-experienced All Blacks team to try to stamp control up front before they do anything else.
“It’s pretty much their modus operandi, they have got great leg drive and I love that style of play,” Cheika said.
“We want to bring physicality to the game too. It is also how you bring it technically and why you are doing it. It will be an interesting part of the game.”
The triumphant team will be the first to win the Webb Ellis Cup three times and the All Blacks can become the first side to defend their title.
Australia can leapfrog New Zealand in the world rankings and become No.1 for the first ever time if successful. It would end a six-year All Blacks reign on top.