RUGBY WC FINAL: BENT ON BEATING THE NEIGHBOUR

All Blacks are odds on for an unprecedented World Cup hat-trick.

The old rivalry rears its head again as New Zealand face Australia for global rugby supremacy. It’s all about pride. SIX-SIX.COM seeks the opinions of Tongan and England internationals, Inoke Afeaki and James Forrester.

IAN DE COTTA

A CORNER of the normally sedentary southern hemisphere will be raucous in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The All Blacks and Wallabies are great neighbours, but fierce rivals in sport. Sparks fly in every face-off between the two, but nothing can ever get closer than on the biggest stage of them all—the Rugby World Cup Final on Saturday (Midnight, Nov 1, Singapore time) in London.

Both countries have already won the Webb Ellis Cup twice — Australia in 1991 and 1999, and New Zealand at the first edition in 1987 and again four years ago. But whoever wins at Twickenham Stadium will also be the first to do so thrice. The All Blacks will have the additional honour of being the only team to record back-to-back triumphs, if they end up victors.

This is also the first time the two teams are meeting in the final in the 28-year history of the World Cup.

The game changers

Former international Inoke Afeaki, who turned out for Tonga at three World Cups in 1995, 2003 and 2007, told SIX-SIX.COM the odds weigh heavily in the All Blacks favour. The only way for the Wallabies to turn the tables is if they bring their ‘A’ Game to Twickenham.

And if fly-half Quade Cooper gets to play for the Wallabies, he will cause plenty of problems for the defending champions. “He is the X-Factor type of player and little bit random with what he does,” added Afeaki, who is now the Singapore Rugby Union technical director.

“He reminds me a lot of the All Blacks No 10, Carlos Spencer. Cooper’s play is beautifully unscripted and he combines well with scrum-half Will Genia.”

Former England No 8 James Forrester, who is a trainer at UFIT in Singapore, held up flanker David Pocock as the main trigger in Australia’s armoury. When he steps on the gas he can singlehandedly upset the form book and hand the Wallabies their third World Cup.

Added Forrester: “He is a game changer. He is outstanding at the moment for Australia. But I think the All Blacks know how to deal with Pocock and if they can get to grips with him, they will be the better side.”

For Forrester, the keys that will unlock the All Blacks play are half-back Aaron Smith, inside centre Dan Carter and centre Ma’a Nonu.

“Smith needs a big game because New Zealand are going to be keen on some quick balls,” said Forrester. “He and superstar Carter controlled the game really well against South Africa in very tough conditions. If they are allowed to click again, they will create quick balls for Ma’a Nonu to move forward and New Zealand will be a formidable force to defend against.

Article first appeared in six-six.com. Read full story here Bent On Beating The Neighbour.