5 Talking Points For The Rugby World Cup Final
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As New Zealand and Australia meet in a Rugby World Cup final for the first time, here’s a look at five talking points heading into the Twickenham showdown.
1. Battle of the breakdown
Rugby union’s most hotly contested area of the game – that scrap for possession immediately after a tackle, and before and during the ensuing ruck – will see some masters of the art on show this weekend. Australia have two master pilferers of the ball in their back row – David Pocock and Michael Hooper – while New Zealand captain Richie McCaw and All Blacks number eight Kieran Read are similarly combative. It will be a brutal contest.
2. Fitting finale or World Cup final heartache for All Blacks superstars?
New Zealand will want a dream send-off for a group of high-profile players whose Test careers are set to end on Saturday. Fly-half Dan Carter, plus centres Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu, are heading to France on lucrative club deals, while 34-year-old skipper McCaw is widely expected to announce his Test rugby retirement after the tournament and replacement hooker Keven Mealamu is definitely stepping down. They have all been remarkable servants of the game.
3. Can New Zealand make history?
New Zealand have lost just three games since the last World Cup in 2011 – against England, South Africa and Australia – and victory on Saturday would see them become the first nation to win successive world titles. They last suffered a World Cup defeat in the 2007 quarter-finals against France, reeling off 13 wins on the bounce. Those are statistics that underline how big a challenge Australia face.
4. Australia’s stellar back division could thrive
Australia have shown during the 2015 World Cup that their backs are capable of shredding any defence. Players like wings Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell, full-back Israel Folau, centre Matt Giteau and fly-half Bernard Foley all present a considerable danger with ball in hand, and New Zealand look likely to be seriously tested if the Wallabies pack can supply a steady stream of possession. World Cup finals are rarely running rugby spectaculars, but this one might prove an exception.
5. Referee Nigel Owens has a huge role to play
Welshman Owens is regarded not only as the world’s finest referee, but also an official who empathises with players and allows the game to flow. His appointment to Saturday’s final is not only richly deserved, it also means that both sets of players are guaranteed to be given every chance of expressing themselves in what will be a white-hot Twickenham cauldron.
Source: Irish Examiner