After two months of arguably the best Rugby World Cup ever, Sport360 reporter Andrew Binner looks at where the final will be won, why third-place is anything but a consolation and why the Springboks must stick with Heyneke Meyer.
Rugby World Cup final: Richie McCaw v David Pocock
On the 31st October the two best teams of the tournament will lock horns in an all-antipodean World Cup final.
In Ben Smith, Dan Carter and Israel Folau, some of the world’s finest attacking players will be on show but this game will be won and lost at the breakdown, where spectators can expect an almighty battle between Richie McCaw and David Pocock.
The two openside flankers have stood head and shoulders above all others in terms of their quality on defence and have disrupted opposition attacks with ease.
— David Campese (@Davidcampese11) October 27, 2015
New Zealand and Australia both thrive on fast ball and it will be the top priority of the two No. 7’s to keep each other’s attacking threats at bay.
The All Blacks will be favourites to win this game but if Pocock continues his fine form in the tackle area, the World Champions’ backrow will be in for a long day at the office. Just ask Argentina.
Third-place anything but a consolation
It is often said that at third-place play-off is like kissing your sister: You don’t want to but feel obliged to go through with it.
This could not be further from the truth when Rugby Championship rivals South Africa and Argentina clash at the Olympic Stadium.
It’s our last week together as a team. Unbelievable journey so far with a group of friends that I can call brothers. pic.twitter.com/lE0OT8f9Gq
— JP Pietersen (@jppietersen14) October 26, 2015
South Africa’s pre-tournament mauling at the hands of Pumas in Durban damaged the pride of a nation and Heyneke Meyer will be keen to put that ghost well and truly to bed.
Despite winning the bronze medal in 2007, the South Americans will start the game as underdogs.
However the exhausting nature of South Africa’s route to this may have taken its toll on the team and Argentina will be keen to capitalize on this through their strike runners out wide.
South Africa must stick with Meyer
After a roller-coaster tournament that has seen both anxiety and elation, Heyneke Meyer must remain as South Africa coach after the World Cup.
The eccentric but affable former Blue Bulls coach has become one of the most televised faces at the tournament as he lives and feels every try and every dropped ball like he is actually on the field.
It is this emotion that inspires South Africa to play at their best and the manner in which he re-energised his dejected players after an embarrassing loss to Japan alone underlines his credentials as a world class operator.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 24, 2015
In the cauldron of professional sport it is difficult for any coach to retain their position if they fail just once, and failing to win the World Cup will be seen as a failure in rugby-obsessed South Africa.
However Meyer’s core of supremely talented youngsters in 2015 is likely to provide the backbone of the team at Tokyo 2019 and there is no better coach South Africa can call on to deliver the trophy.
London Irish gamble on game in New York
Despite a poor showing at England 2015, the American rugby revolution continues with London Irish set to host Saracens at New York’s 25,000 capactiy Red Bull Arena in March 2016.
It will be the first Premiership game ever played overseas and London Irish are hoping to tap into the large Irish community in the city in the build-up to St. Patrick’s Day.
Given that America’s College rugby heartland lies in California and it was Chicago that hosted a 62,000-spectator sell-out game against New Zealand last year, staging this game in New York represents something of a gamble.
— London Irish (@LiRFC) October 27, 2015
Looking back to the failed Wasps v Harlequins ‘A’ team experiment at Abu Dhabi in 2011, these games are not guaranteed success and Irish will risk losing a home attendance of around 8,000-10,000 even before taking the additional costs into account.
Whether the experiment will be a success or not remains to be seen but the principle behind these efforts must be applauded as rugby continues to expand into an ever-growing global market.
Time to consider scrapping relegation
Saracens are once again sitting-pretty at the top of the table but instead of lauding celebrating their on-field prowess, English headlines are focusing instead on the English champions’ abuse of the salary cap.
Despite winning a legal battle this week to clear the Londoners’ name, the episode has brought to light a wider issue that has plagued English rugby since the start of professionalism.
Plans to expand the premiership to 14 teams and have no promotion and relegation from 2016 have been put on hold. pic.twitter.com/FGMw6Y6JUE
— EatSleepRugby (@eatsleeprugby) July 14, 2015
With an ever increasing salary allowance, teams like Leicester Tigers, Bath and more recently Northampton Saints and Saracens are quickly becoming English rugby’s power houses. With this comes a real danger that smaller teams will not be able to keep on competing with them.
An idea that will have rugby purists reeling is to scrap the promotion/relegation battle. Yes, a success story like Exeter Chiefs would be denied their place at the top table, but in adopting a Super Rugby format where all teams are safe, there will be increased investment into all teams which can only increase the standard of play throughout the league and the country.
In recent seasons there has been a worryingly increasing trend of players injuring themselves with dangerous tackling techniques, often leading with their head. This video is not for the faint-hearted but demonstrates the point perfectly in a recent Premiership match and the time may have come for players to be penalized for endangering themselves in such a reckless fashion.
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Australia boss Michael Cheika had few qualms branding his Wallabies the underdogs for Saturday’s World Cup final against defending champions New Zealand.
Head coach Cheika insisted Australia must produce “something extra just to be competitive” against the All Blacks, with both sides bidding to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a record third time at Twickenham.
Adam Ashley-Cooper’s hat-trick and Rob Simmons’ early sucker-punch score guided Australia past Argentina 29-15 in London on Sunday, teeing up that trans-Tasman showdown with the All Blacks.
Cheika would not go as far as to agree with Springboks boss Heyneke Meyer hailing Steve Hansen’s New Zealand the best side of all time, but still accepted the trophy holders will start as favourites.
“Well you’ve got to go back into the history annals to talk on that,” said Cheika, when asked if the All Blacks are the best of all time.
Cheika: “New Zealand are well drilled. They have an excellent coach and know what they’re doing all over the on pitch. We need to improve.”
— Rugby World (@Rugbyworldmag) October 25, 2015
“They are obviously the world’s number one. We’ve only beaten them once in the last 10 matches. So they’ll be feeling they’ve got our measure and it’s going to be up to us to do something special, something extra just to be competitive. So we’ll see how we go.
“We’ve got to improve massively from what we did today, to even be in the hunt next week. We’ll pick two or three things and try to make those things better.
“When you’ve got a team like New Zealand with so many threats, who are so well-drilled and have such a great coach you have to be working hard all the time.
“New Zealand have had a very different path from us to here. They will be feeling a little bit differently in their preparation. But it’s a World Cup final and the adrenaline’s going to be pumping and anyone who’s a little bit sore will forget all about soreness next week.”
Former Leinster and Waratahs boss Cheika only assumed the Wallabies job in October 2014, after Ewen McKenzie’s resignation.
The taskmaster coach has transformed a talented but disparate group besieged by infighting and recrimination into potential world champions, and all inside 12 months.
The no-nonsense 48-year-old still batted away any praise when quizzed on how he has reversed Australia’s fortunes however.
“I’m not taking credit for any type of that stuff,” said Cheika.
“I don’t know if we’re turned around or anything, I just know guys are playing for each other, want to play for Australia and are committed when they take the field. That’s the basis for a contact sport, and that’s about it really.”
Australia head coach Michael Cheika said on Sunday that his players would have to "do something special" to beat New Zealand in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final.
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