Barbs fly ahead of epic fi­nal

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — Aus­tralia’s ad­vance to a first World Cup fi­nal matchup against the All Blacks on Satur­day has trig­gered an ex­change of ver­bal bar­rages from sali­vat­ing fans and pun­dits on both sides of the Tas­man Sea.

The An­tipodean na­tions have long shared a pas­sion­ate ri­valry across var­i­ous sports, with New Zealand gen­er­ally the un­der­dogs and keen to show up ‘big brother’ across ‘the ditch’.

In rugby, how­ever, the All Blacks have dom­i­nated in all but a few of their matches against the Wal­la­bies over the past decade.

Of­ten ranked one and two in the world, the teams’ fail­ure to meet in the fi­nal of the global show­piece has been one of the more cu­ri­ous anom­alies of the game.

So the prospect of the ul­ti­mate clash for four years of brag­ging rights whipped the me­dia in both coun­tries into a frenzy.

“Mo­ti­va­tion can’t pos­si­bly be a prob­lem for the All Blacks this week. A World Cup fi­nal should be more than enough in it­self,” New Zealand Her­ald colum­nist Gre­gor Paul wrote on Mon­day.

“But it’s against Aus­tralia — who in rugby terms at least are lit­tle brother. It’s against Aus­tralia -- who at times in the past decade have been a nau­se­at­ing mix of over con­fi­dence and un­der per­for­mance.”

Book­mak­ers have in­stalled the de­fend­ing cham­pion All Blacks as hot favourites to go back-to­back, and the Wal­la­bies will have grim mem­o­ries of their last en­counter, a thrash­ing at New Zealand’s Eden Park fortress.

But Aus­tralia’s past World Cup win­ners were con­vinced Michael Cheika’s side could tear up the form guide.

“Ar­gentina’s scrum put us through the wringer, but Aus­tralia’s defence was out­stand­ing,” Wal­la­bies great Michael Ly­nagh said in quotes pub­lished by The Aus­tralian news­pa­per on Mon­day.

“Aus­tralia is one of the few teams that can beat New Zealand, this is a huge op­por­tu­nity.”

John Eales, cap­tain of Aus­tralia’s 1999 World Cup-win­ning side, was also back­ing an up­set.

“They’ve peaked at the right time,” the former Wal­la­bies lock told Fox Sports. “This team’s got one song sheet and they’re all singing from it. They’ve been singing from it all year.”

Aus­tralia are one of only a few sides to deny the All Blacks com­plete dom­i­nance of world rugby in re­cent years and though most New Zealand scribes tipped a win for the cham­pi­ons, there were signs of a grudg­ing re­spect.

“The fi­nal will be a bet­ter con­test for Aus­tralia’s pres­ence,” Chris Rattue wrote in the New Zealand Her­ald.

“They spe­cialise in guile, whereas Ar­gentina are still too gullible to match it with the All Blacks.

“But the All Blacks are ready to pounce on the mouse which is roar­ing.”— Reuters

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