Stage Set for Final Showdown

AFTER 47 matches, 18 teams and 13 stadiums, there awaits one last battle. And it will see two sets of soldiers from the same corner of the world march out tomorrow night at Twickenham for the chance to lift the Webb Ellis trophy.

In a stadium which is hundreds of thousands of miles away from where the likes of Ma’a Nonu, Richie McCaw, David Pocock and Ashley Cooper first stepped out onto a rugby pitch, a Rugby World Cup Final setting for Australia and New Zealand is a far cry from no-man’s land: the Wallabies and the All-Blacks will play in what will be their fourth world cup final each tomorrow night.

Remarkably however, these two giant Antipodean rivals have never met each other on the biggest stage of all, which will make this encounter all the more magical, historical and most significantly of all, unpredictable.

Reigning champions New Zealand will be looking to retain the Webb Ellis trophy – a feat that has never been achieved in the history of the World Cup, although judging by the All Blacks’ consistent performance throughout the tournament, this realisation is not unattainable. They are, in fact, favourites to win. After annihilating France in the quarter-finals, Steve Hansen’s side slogged their way to a two-point victory against South Africa in an incredibly tight match that truly and – uncharacteristically – tested their discipline. And it was by no mere coincidence that it was this crucial match which saw Dan Carter overtake Grant Fox as New Zealand’s all-time leading World Cup points scorer with 172.

Australia, in comparison, will be buoyed by their hard-fought win over a valiant Argentina who came up short against the trusted boot of Bernard Foley and the impressive ball carrying of Adam Pollock, who won a game high of four turnovers and made 13 carries. The Wallabies, like their counterparts, are deserved finalists (although your average Scot might say otherwise). They brushed England aside – and out – of their own home tournament to gain a seemingly easier path to the final – but their quarter-final win that they ground out against Scotland was anything but.

These two nations have traditionally shared a fierce, competitive and inspiring sporting rivalry which will add something else to what has been an epic World Cup. For home fans, England’s premature elimination in the group stages might not have been something to shout about. But the first meeting between what are arguably two of the greatest rugby sides in world rugby, on the biggest stage of all at Twickenham, is.

Fiona Tomas 

Featured Image: Planet Rugby

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