8th Rugby World Cup final will be a neighborly affair
LONDON (AP) Finally, in the eighth Rugby World Cup, New Zealand and Australia will meet in the final.
The neighbors have made it to the climax at Twickenham next Saturday for a record-equaling fourth time, and both will vie for another record – winning the Webb Ellis Cup a third time.
Twice before, the All Blacks and Wallabies seemed set to face each other in the final only to be tripped up by France.
In the inaugural 1987 tournament, favorite Australia lost at home to the Tricolors in an epic semifinal and New Zealand went on to win. In 1999, New Zealand had a huge upset loss to the French, and Australia won its second and title.
All three previous World Cup matchups between the All Blacks and Wallabies were semifinals.
Australia’s 16-6 win in 1991 in Dublin was famous for David Campese’s no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to Tim Horan for a 13-0 halftime lead, and their 22-10 win in 2003 in Sydney swung on Stirling Mortlock’s intercept try against the run of play.
The All Blacks dominated the third match in 2011 in Auckland, with a 20-6 scoreline that flattered the Australians.
The Kiwis were favorites then, and are favorites again, as British bookmaker William Hill has given the defending champions winning odds of 4-9, and offered Australia at 2-1.
Australia secured its spot in the final on Sunday after coming through a gripping semifinal against Argentina 29-15 at Twickenham, where the contest was in the balance until the 72nd minute when Adam Ashley-Cooper scored his third try.
New Zealand defeated the only other two-time Rugby World Cup champion, South Africa, 20-18 the day before in a compelling slog in the rain.
That gave New Zealand a World Cup-record 13th consecutive win, surpassing the Wallabies’ dozen over 1999 and 2003.
It also ensured the All Blacks remained on course to become the first team to successfully retain the title. They are also trying to win the cup for the first time outside of New Zealand.
Coach Steve Hansen didn’t care who they met in the final, saying it was going to be tough regardless.
They face a Wallabies outfit whose two cup titles were earned in both previous tournaments on British soil.
After edging the Pumas, the Australians improved to 22 wins and one defeat in World Cup matches in the northern hemisphere, their only defeat to England in the 2007 quarterfinals.
But the All Blacks have their own streak going. Since that 2011 semifinal, they have lost to the Wallabies only once in 12 contests, including two draws.
The once was at the beginning of August, when Australia prevailed 27-19 in Sydney to win its first Rugby Championship in four years.
The following week, in Auckland, the chagrined All Blacks tore them apart 41-13.
”They’ll be feeling pretty good,” Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said. ”They’ve got our measure, and it’s up to us to do something special, to do something extra to just be competitive. We’ll see what happens from there.”