27 Oct 2015

How to win a Rugby World Cup final

2:41 pm on 27 October 2015

And so it starts. Or ends. Take your pick. Either way the Rugby World Cup final between the All Blacks and Wallabies is on Sunday at 5am.

As with all big matches, the game of two halves, full credit to everyone, is already being pulled apart. The world's rugby soothsayers have their crystal balls out and are, yes, rubbing them furiously.

To help you understand what it takes to win a World Cup final, and save you a lot of time, we're undertaking the onerous task of reading their wise words to bring you some highlights.

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Photo: PhotoSport

Graham Henry - the former All Blacks coach and World Cup winner in 2011 (and loser too, in 2007) - is obviously well placed to provide sage advice.

Writing in The Guardian, Henry believes "ticking that box" - i.e. winning the semi-final - has the All Blacks nicely poised for the final.

"[They've] set themselves up to be at the peak of their powers psychologically for Sunday's final.

"If we go back and look at previous tournaments, before they lift the cup, the champions go through a game that goes to the wire; a tussle that was always going to be challenging but which they were expected to win.

"And the feeling of comfort is gone, ideal for the final."

Henry is focused on the mental game, which can be nicely summed up as 'keep calm and carry on'.

"It will come down to who is the most composed and clinical in what should be a cracker."

Richie McCaw snatches the lineout ball from South African lock Eben Etzebeth.

Richie McCaw snatches the lineout ball from South African lock Eben Etzebeth. Photo: AFP

Robert Kitson, the Guardian's leading rugby writer, is keeping it personal too, saying the Wallabies' recent success is based on more than just rugger.

"[It's] a lot more to do with the blend of personalities in the Wallabies dressing room. Rather than suppressing character and cracking down on free-thinking, this Australia squad have consciously gone the other way."

The irrepressible, cheeky spirit of the lucky country's sporting stars rises again.

Speaking of which, former Wallaby and outspoken commentator Peter FitzSimons reckons the "men in green and gold have a feel about them". Ew, er.

"Time and again at this tournament, the rugby gods have smiled benevolently on the Wallabies… [it's] like they have a rendezvous with destiny, while the great tradition for the All Blacks has been to have an appointment with disappointment. Truly, that has always been the case for them, bar the first World Cup and the most recent one, when they were playing at home. This time they ain't."

Chris Dutton, also writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, narrows it down a bit and says the key is the Australian loose forward trio - Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper and David Pocock.

"Australia have beaten the All Blacks just once in the past four years, and that win came when Pocock, Fardy and Hooper were together."

Dan Carter after the All Blacks' semi-final win against South Africa

Dan Carter after the All Blacks' semi-final win against South Africa Photo: AFP

Michael Cheika, the Australian coach, meanwhile, has fair sprinted for the safety of the underdog tag, saying they'd have to "massively improve" to "even be in the hunt".

"New Zealand are the world's number one and they are there for a reason, I think we have only beaten them once in the last 10 games so they will be feeling pretty good that they have got our measure and we are going to have to do something special, something extra to just be competitive."

Tune in next time when someone will no doubt say: "the breakdowns and scrums will be critical. Whoever wins them, wins the cup."

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