Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Tyrone Howe: Who will win the Rugby World Cup?

Well, I really can’t see much further than a battle between the two southern hemisphere giants, Australia and New Zealand.

The mind games have been going on for some time now, and the cracks in the All Black psyche are undoubtedly appearing. The pendulum has very much swung Australia’s way, and the men in gold seem to have got their timing just right. A Quade Cooper-inspired Super 15 victory for the Queensland Reds over Canterbury Crusaders planted the seeds of doubt, while Australia’s triumph in the TriNations nurtured them further. Now, they need to harvest the crop.

There is absolutely no fear in a gold shirt when Australians take the pitch against the All Blacks – a classic case of familiarity breeds contempt. The geographic proximity and the fact that there are no other rivals around create the perfect storm when it comes to sporting rivalry between the two nations. No wonder, then, that a recent poll showed that, should the All Blacks not triumph, their public doesn’t care who wins as long as it isn’t Australia!

They don’t do charity in New Zealand. Despite recent wobbles, I still believe that the All Blacks will push on to victory in this year’s tournament. Home advantage counts for a lot when margins are so tight, and Graham Henry’s men rarely lose on home soil. There is a wealth of experience on this All Black side. There are game-breakers on whatever starting XV Henry selects, with serious impact players on the bench.

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