New Zealand v Australia: Rugby World Cup Final preview
New Zealand meet Australia in the RWC 2015 final this afternoon at Twickenham: 4pm kick off
The world’s two top-ranked sides have never met in the decider
One of the pair will become the first nation to hoist the Webb Ellis Cup three times
All Blacks could also become the first to win back-to-back titles if they win
New Zealand are aiming to make history this afternoon by becoming the first team ever to retain the Rugby World Cup as they prepare to go head-to-head with Australia at a sold out Twickenham Final.
More than 80,000 fans will be in attendance with the All Blacks starting as favourites having lost just three games from 53 since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup four years ago.
It will be the first time the All Blacks and Australia – the world’s top-two ranked sides – have met in the World Cup showpiece and both have won the competition twice with no country having won the RWC three times.
Back home, both sides have been well supported, with the two countries’ national airlines agreeing that their crews will wear opposing rugby jerseys on Monday should their team lose, while record TV audiences are expected, despite the early-hours kick off for both southern hemisphere sides.
The eighth Rugby World Cup has been dominated by the southern hemisphere over its six weeks and, perhaps fittingly, the semi-finals were made up entirely of countries from the south for the first time ever.
New Zealand have enjoyed a stellar four years since the last World Cup, but Australia’s story has been wholly different after Michael Cheika has transformed the previously unsuccessful Wallabies in the last 12 months and he helped guide his country to a landmark win against the All Blacks in August, their only win against the All Blacks in 12 attempts.
The all-conquering All Blacks are firm favourites, with good reason too. They have only lost three games in four years since their last World Cup title. Almost uniquely, they have strengthened since their last World Cup triumph an they look well set to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cup titles in history.
But their old rivals, led by the studious Michael Cheika, will provide a stern test. Expect a low-scoring afternoon with Dan Carter and co. coming out on top, just. New Zealand by 3.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New Zealand: Dan Carter
Australia: Israel Folau
Though hit by injury in this year’s competition, Folau has remained one of the 2015 World Cup’s most eye-catching performers. The full back, a recent Rugby League convert, is one of the most physically gifted players in the game and the stage of a World Cup final will be far from daunting for the 37-cap 26-year-old, he will relish the occasion.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.
Date: Saturday, October 31
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 16:00 local
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Wayne Barnes (England)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)