IRB Rugby World Cup
Preview: New Zealand vs. Australia -- All Blacks to make history against Wallabies
Martyn Thomas
October 30, 2015
Cheika: I believe in this team

So, this is it. Following six weeks of bruising action, Australia and New Zealand are the two heavyweights left slugging it out for Rugby World Cup glory. Each have taken a different route to the final, yet neither are there by luck. For New Zealand history beckons as they bid to become the first side in history to successfully defend the Webb Ellis Cup. Lifting the famous trophy would be a remarkable way for Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Ma'a Nonu and Tony Woodcock to leave the international stage, and has seemed almost predestined at times as the All Blacks cantered into the last four before winning an arm wrestle against South Africa. The Wallabies, meanwhile, came through the most difficult pool in World Cup history, topping it ahead of England, Fiji and Wales, before riding their luck against Scotland and catching Argentina cold in the semifinals. Victory at Twickenham would further validate the excellent work done by Michael Cheika, his coaching staff and an improved group of players. Whatever happens over the 80 minutes, though, it promises to be a cracker...

Team news

Nehe Milner-Skudder passed a fitness test to take his place in an unchanged All Blacks XV that also sees prop Joe Moody retain his place. Wyatt Crockett -- who missed the semifinal win over South Africa through injury -- had been pencilled in for a place on the bench, but hurt himself in training on Thursday meaning Ben Franks will be among the replacements on Saturday.

Scott Sio has recovered from an elbow injury to take his place in the Wallabies front-row, and give Cheika a considerable boost. James Slipper drops down to the bench with Toby Smith omitted altogether in the only change to the Australia 23 that beat Argentina so convincingly last Sunday. 

New Zealand

Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams.

McCaw: It's not about individuals


Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Stephen Moore (captain), Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, David Pocock

Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Greg Holmes, Dean Mumm, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale.

© Phil Walter/Getty Images

Key head-to-head

Australia's march to the final has been fuelled in no small way by their domination at the breakdown. Neither Argentina nor England could live with the combination of David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy, while Wales were so tied up in the back-row battle that they forgot how to score tries. However, in the All Blacks they are facing a side who could well blow them away at the breakdown. Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino got through an amazing amount of work against South Africa, and although they were occasionally on the wrong side of referee Jerome Garces, they were a major reason the All Blacks won. Perform again on Saturday and victory becomes a more straightforward prospect.

Hansen: Australia's rise is great for rugby

Key stats

*Australia vs. New Zealand is the most played international rugby union match, with the two sides meeting on 154 previous occasions. The All Blacks have won 105 of those encounters, with the Wallabies winning 42 and seven ending in a draw.

*The two sides have met three times at World Cups, all in semifinals, with Australia holding the edge, two to one.

*New Zealand won the most recent encounter -- 41-13 at Eden Park -- to win the Bledisloe Cup for a 13th consecutive year.


Unibet have made New Zealand strong favourites for the final, pricing them at 4/11 to beat Australia for a 106th time and lift the Webb Ellis Cup. The same firm is offering odds of 43/20 on a Wallabies victory, while you can get 9/1 for Julian Savea to score at least two tries, and 40/1 if you think he'll grab a hat trick.

Fardy, Hooper preparing for All Blacks test


There's good news for those with tickets for Saturday's final as it should stay dry with sunshine predicted along with a temperature of 15 degrees celcius.  


Australia have answered every question asked of them at this World Cup, navigating an extremely tough path to the final with apparent ease. Yet in New Zealand they are coming up against not only the best team in the world but one that will go down in the annals of history. And if any added incentive were needed, the All Blacks have got it as they prepare to wave five greats into international retirement. Not at their fluent best in the last four, that they were able to slug it out is ominous for the Wallabies -- New Zealand to win by five points.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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