Australia v New Zealand in Auckland (World Cup, 2nd Semi-Final)
Venue: Eden Park
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Here we are at Eden park and the match of the tournament is about to take place. All the matches of the last eight have been, for me, exciting affairs. Nail biting even.
New Zealand, like so many Rugby World Cup tournaments previously, had eased their way through pool play only to fall when the real pressure hit. The Kiwis have a very shaky place in the history Rugby World Cup finals since winning the trophy in 1987. They lost a final in 1995, were swept out by the French in 1999 and 2007 at the quarter finals stage. Australia has a habit of dumping New Zealand out of World Cups at the semi-final stage. They did this in 1991 and 2003.
The pressure on New Zealand as hosts has been immense. For your average New Zealand rugby fan losing out on the Rugby World Cup title as tantamount to an unforgivable crime. This year is the year to make amends.
Then the unthinkable happened. New Zealand lost their star player Daniel Carter. The nation stopped! Then quickly moved on to the thought that, ‘One player doesn’t make a team. Everybody needs to step up a level of their play to compensate.’ (Well that was my thought). Against a tough Argentina team last weekend New Zealand by and large did step up. Slade and Cruden filled the gap capably if not brilliantly.
Then New Zealanders had to face the fact that captain fantastic Richie McCaw was not at his best. He was playing with an injured foot that has plagued him throughout this World Cup. Not catastrophic but significant enough for a reserve playing to slot down on the side of training scrums. The tension was becoming unbearable.
Australia has not been without its problems. The display against South Africa, whilst gutsy, saw what is generally considered a lucky result. South Africa dominated every area except the tackle count and the scoreboard. Such is life at the cutting edge of a World Cup. Then Australia suffered injury to Kurtley Beale just days ago.
I feel New Zealand has the edge over Australia for this match. They are the only team at the quarter finals stage who finished off opportunities and scored tries once they’d broken down the defence. New Zealand has a remarkable history against Australia on this ground and they will be playing with a huge fan support in the crowd.
Australia has an exciting set of backs. They have one of the best No.7’s in Pocock and on their day a pack that can hold its own.
If New Zealand can control the set pieces, be patient and snuff out the expected back attacks they should win comfortably.
A word of warning. I did say ages ago I expected Australia to be one of the teams in the final. My summary of them is not been so favourable of late. As a Kiwi I hope that prediction doesn’t come back to bite me!
Last Five Encounters
27.08.2011 Australia 25-20 in Brisbane (Bledisloe Cup; Tri Nations)
06.08.2011 New Zealand 30-14 in Auckland (Bledisloe Cup; Tri Nations)
30.10.2010 Australia 26-24 in Hong Kong (Bledisloe Cup)
11.09.2010 New Zealand 23-22 in Sydney (Tri Nations; Bledisloe Cup)
07.06.2010 New Zealand 20-10 in Christchurch (Tri Nations; Bledisloe Cup)
It has been 25 years since Australia won a test match at Eden Park.
New Zealand This World Cup (Pool A)
09.09.2011 v Tonga W 41-10 in Auckland
16.09.2011 v Japan W 83-7 in Hamilton
24.09.2011 v France W 37-17 in Auckland
02.10.2011 v Canada W 79-15 in Wellington
09.10.2011 v Argentina W 33-10 in Auckland (QF)
Australia This World Cup (Pool C)
11.09.2011 v Italy W 32-6 in Albany
17.09.2011 v Ireland L 6-15 in Auckland
23.09.2011 v USA W 67-5 in Wellington
01.10.2011 v Russia W 68-22 in Nelson
09.10.2011 v South Africa W 11-9 in Wellington (QF)
GWC Rugby Rankings
World Table-Australia 1st, New Zealand 6th
Oceania Table-Australia 1st, New Zealand 2nd
IRB Ranking Points
New Zealand 90.92, Australia 87. 21
Prediction: New Zealand by 9 points
15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Patrick McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 William Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 David Pocock,
6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill, Capt. 4 Daniel Vickerman, 3 Benjamon Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.
16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Robert Simmons, 19 Benjamin McCalman, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Anthony Faingaa.
Head Coach: Robbie Deans
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, Capt. 6 Jerome Kaino,
5 Bradley Thorn, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
16 Andrew Hore, 17 Benjamin Franks, 18 Alistair Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andrew Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Sonny Bill Williams.
Head Coach: Graham Henry