Australia v New Zealand: preview

by Staff Writer

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Aus 42   - New Zealand 105 - Draw 7  (154 matches)

AUS v NZL Last five

Aus 1 -  NZL 4

AUS LAST 5 - WWWWW

NZL LAST 5 - WWWWW

TEAMS

AUSTRALIA

1. Scott Sio

2. Stephen Moore (captain)

3. Sekope Kepu

4. Kane Douglas

5. Rob Simmons

6. Scott Fardy

7. Michael Hooper

8. David Pocock

9. Will Genia

10. Bernard Foley

11. Drew Mitchell

12. Matt Giteau

13. Tevita Kuridrani

14. Adam Ashley-Cooper

15. Israel Folau

Replacements

16. Tatafu Polota-Nau

17. Toby Smith

18. Greg Holmes

19. Dean Mumm

20. Ben McCalman

21. Nick Phipps

22. Matt Toomua

23. Kurtley Beale

NEW ZEALAND

1. Joe Moody

2. Dane Coles

3. Owen Franks

4. Brodie Retallick

5. Sam Whitelock

6. Jerome Kaino

7. Richie McCaw (captain)

8. Kieran Read

9. Aaron Smith

10. Daniel Carter

11. Julian Savea

12. Ma'a Nonu

13. Conrad Smith

14. Nehe Milner-Skudder

15. Ben Smith

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

Key match ups

Bernard Foley v Dan Carter

They’ve been two of the form playmakers of this tournament and have shown their best under pressure. Foley is cooler than a latte-sipping hipster and his Ice Man qualities have shone exactly when they’ve been required this tournament. He has unequivocally taken the flyhalf jersey and made it his own. His opposite number has shrugged off some lukewarm pre-tournament form and worked his way into the competition, before his best game against South Africa last weekend. Goal kicking has oft decided World Cup finals and this one could once again come down to the wire, so expect their clutch qualities to be fully called upon in the final.

Matt Giteau v Ma’a Nonu

Giteau has been one of Australia’s key players this tournament, with eligibility rule changes looking more and more like a masterstroke each week. He has taken a share of the playmaking role off Foley and his ability to set up the side’s wingers has been vial as well. His opposite number is a fellow 100-Test player, regularly seen as a “battering ram”. Both possess skill and smarts but their experience could be one of the deciding factors for their respective teams.

Scott Sio v Owen Franks

The scrum is always critical and as Australia likes to say, “it’s the most humbling part of the game.” Australia’s improved scrummaging this tournament has turned games for them. Sio wasn’t happy with his performance in Australia’s quarter-final against Scotland, before being taken off with an elbow injury, saying on Thursday that he wanted to take things up a notch. He was missed in Australia’s semi-final win over Argentina, as they conceded two first-half scrum penalties and four for the match. Sio’s return will go some way to rectifying that on Saturday, as the 24-year-old tries to continue his improvement.

Israel Folau v Ben Smith

Folau was one of the most talked about Wallabies heading into the World Cup but an ankle injury has curtailed his potential somewhat in this tournament. He thrives on the biggest stages, though, and says he is not affected by that external pressure. He has still been an attacking weapon for Australia despite having limited game time. If there was one game open for his taking, this could be it. Smith has been one of the unsung players of New Zealand’s World Cup but a man of the match semi-final performance showed how important he is to their side.

David Pocock v Richie McCaw

Pocock has used the cloak of the number eight to diffuse talk about Richie McCaw this week but the two turnover weapons will be effectively going head-to-head on Saturday. Pocock is in exceptional form, leading not just Australia but the entire competition in turnovers by some way - he has 14, with Leone Nakawara the next best on nine. It doesn’t matter what number Pocock has on his back, he will be in the breakdown fetching balls and spilling blood for Australia. His combination with Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy also only stands to continue to go up a level with the trio having played just one full game together this tournament, against England. McCaw is New Zealand’s captain and will be looking to nullify the threat Pocock poses. Whoever wins this battle will be a long way to claiming crucial momentum.

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