Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup Final: Australia are up for it but are destined to fall short

By Willie Anderson

He may not be everybody's cup of tea but you really have to admire the job that Michael Cheika has done in taking Australia to a World Cup final.

Having been a winner at Leinster and the Waratahs it's no surprise that he's been able to change the culture of what was a disastrous bunch, but to do it so quickly shows that he really does have the Midas touch.

A coach who tells it exactly as it is can upset a few people but it's clearly working for a team that's gone back to playing with the style and finesse we expect.

I remember going over on a bit of a scouting mission to Australia once upon a time and it was fascinating to see how they got all their best coaches together to come up with a plan of how to win the World Cup.

Back then it was the likes of Eddie Jones, Bob Dwyer and Greg Smith all getting together in a room, putting club ties aside, and coming up with a national strategy and I'm sure it's the same now.

It's something that has paid dividends for them over the years and it really frustrates me that Ireland don't seem capable of doing the same.

Don't forget Australia were a team considered the whipping boys until as recently as the early 1980s.

If we could get all our best rugby brains together, and just put provincialism off the table, who knows what we could achieve?

It's certainly worked for the Wallabies

Unfortunately for them though I think they'll just come up short tomorrow against the All Blacks.

In Steve Hansen New Zealand probably have the best coach in the entire tournament and I think the three Smiths will make all the difference.

Aaron Smith for me is the best scrum-half in the world and he's shown why again at this World Cup.

The New Zealand game is all about tempo and their number nine is the perfect man for it. Quick to the ruck and with an excellent speed of pass, he just makes the team tick.

At fullback, Ben Smith is a man that just doesn't make a mistake, and there's a real argument to suggest he's been the best player in the tournament, while Conrad Smith at 13 is a real old-fashioned second playmaker at outside centre.

In my experience sentiment doesn't have too much part to play in big games but there's no doubt there's a little added incentive for New Zealand.

Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter have given so much to the team over the last decade plus and they'll really want to go out on a high while this squad will feel they can be history makers with a second win in a row.

It'll be interesting to see how the teams play. Both have shown some real flair at the tournament, but when stakes are at their highest even the best can resort to a bit of rugby tennis.

In what's sure to be a close game, discipline is always key but it's reassuring to see Nigel Owens has been trusted with refereeing the occasion.

He's far and away the best in the world at what he does and, for a game that could be decided by the finest of margins, I'm glad we can be sure that the man in the middle will be making the right calls.

The final is a game I'm really looking forward to but I don't think anything in this tournament is going to top Japan beating South Africa. It just ignited what has been a great World Cup and it's going to be a lot of people's lasting memory. The way the tier 2 nations stepped up at this tournament really gives you hope that it's just going to get better and better. 2019 can't come soon enough!

It's at this time we start to think about players of the tournament but it's hard to look past those turning out for the finalists tomorrow.

Ben Smith has been incredible at 15 for the All Blacks while his opposite number tomorrow Israel Folau is another fine player even if he's been struggling with injury.

Julian Savea on the wing for New Zealand has been so dangerous and David Pocock has just been absolutely superb for Australia.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph