1-NEW ZEALAND V 2-AUSTRALIA AT TWICKENHAM, LONDON, 4PM SATURDAY (0300 SUNDAY AEDT)
Head to head: Played 154, New Zealand won 105, Australia won 42, drawn 7
RUGBY WORLD CUP MEETINGS – Australia leads 2-1
2011: New Zealand won 20-6, semi-final, Eden Park, Auckland
2003: Australia won 22-10, semi-final, Stadium Australia, Sydney
1999: Australia won 16-6, semi-final, Lansdowne Road, Dublin
LAST 10 MEETINGS
2015: New Zealand won 41-13, Eden Park, Auckland
2015: Australia won 27-19, Stadium Australia, Sydney
2014: New Zealand won 29-28, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
2014: New Zealand won 51-20, Eden Park, Auckland
2014: drawn 12-12, Stadium Australia, Sydney
2013: New Zealand won 41-33, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
2013: New Zealand won 27-16, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
2013: New Zealand won 47-29, Stadium Australia, Sydney
2012: drawn 18-18, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
2012: New Zealand won 22-0, Eden Park, Auckland
Best World Cup results: champions 1987, 2011; runners-up 1995
ROAD TO FINAL
Pool games: bt Argentina 26-16, bt Namibia 58-14, bt George 43-10, bt Tonga 47-9
Quarter-final: bt France 63-12
Semi-final: bt South Africa 20-18
Best World Cup results: champions 1991, 1999; runners-up 2003
ROAD TO FINAL
Pool games: bt Fiji 28-13, bt Uruguay 65-3, bt England 33-13, bt Wales 15-6
Quarter-final: bt Scotland 35-34
Semi-final: bt Argentina 29-15
The backrow: This could almost be boiled down to Richie McCaw v David Pocock, two of the finest ball-hunters of the past decade. McCaw has won everything there is to win in rugby union, while Pocock is seemingly destined to take over his throne. Pocock leads the World Cup in turnovers with 14 – if he fires, the Wallabies are a chance. And he’s been ably supported by the fearless tackling of Michael Hooper and the indefatigable Scott Fardy. In McCaw’s corner is the powerful Jerome Kaino and the skilful Kieran Read.
The wingers: Veteran Wallaby duo Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell, two expert finishers with guile and experience, face off with young bucks Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder. Savea has drawn comparisons with Jonah Lomu for his size and devastating running. Milner-Skudder, meanwhile, dazzles with footwork. Mitchell admitted neither is fun to face – but with 14 World Cup tries to his name, Mitchell is no slouch and nor is evergreen Ashley-Cooper.
The halves: No certainty to make the World Cup squad initially, Will Genia has quietly enjoyed a terrific tournament for Australia. The zip is back in his step, his service has been crisp and defensively there have been few concerns. Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones believes he holds the key to Australia’s chances. But Aaron Smith rates as the world’s best No.9 with his brilliant service and clever running. Meanwhile, the final kick of the match could be the winner – whether it comes from the boot of Australia’s Bernard Foley or All Blacks legend Dan Carter is the question the two No.10s will need to answer. Veteran Carter may have an edge in tactical kicking but Foley’s running is a key for Australia.
Analysis: All obvious signs point to an All Blacks victory – they have the historical dominance over Australia, are currently the world No.1 and have been touted as the best team of all time, boasting some of the greatest players. Five of them – McCaw, Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu – are playing their final games for the All Blacks, adding further motivation. But Michael Cheika’s Wallabies have shown incredible resilience and their will to win cannot be questioned. Whether it be down two points with time running out, as they were in their quarter-final win over Scotland, or down two men while defending their tryline, as against Wales, the Wallabies have found a way to advance. The trade-off is that those games have sapped the Wallabies greatly, and whether they have enough in reserve to maintain their high octane game and hold off the defending champions is a question to be answered on Saturday.
All Blacks by seven.
Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Greg Holmes, James Slipper, Dean Mumm, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale.
New Zealand: Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Res: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams.
(*Prefix denotes world ranking)