Australia’s plan for the big match is revealed: get Read
Cheika photographed with key tactics sheet Plan to ‘rattle’ Read and ‘expose’ All Black wings
Australia appeared to score a massive own goal on the eve of today’s World Cup final against New Zealand at Twickenham after coaches Michael Cheika and Mario Ledesma accidentally revealed key details of their game plan during their team’s captain’s run yesterday.
Details of Australia’s attack, defence and line-out strategies were caught by a photograph, which is sure to have caused embarrassment in the Wallabies’ camp and handed New Zealand valuable insight as well as an extra motivational edge.
Notes from a tactics sheet were captured by a photographer which included the instructions to “rattle” All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read from kick-offs and “expose” wingers Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea.
The most eye-catching is the tactic regarding Read, one of New Zealand’s most dangerous players. The note reads: “Kickoff receipt #4 Kieran Read ( get him rattled).”
The notes continue: “Line-out attack, gain-line front foot speed. Expose Milner Skudder and Savea under ball or in backfield.”
Australia’s analysis of New Zealand’s back play is also revealed, with the coaches urging their players to prepare for moves by Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu. The notes state: “Carter running right to left” and “Nonu steps back on the inside when line-speed against”.
There was a prompt too for David Pocock, Australia’s outstanding No 8 and the player of the tournament, to stay back from kick-offs to avoid “Carter rage”, an apparent reference to keeping composed and not targeting the All Black fly-half.
Other memos included to “own the air space, catch everything, chace [sic] everything, escort wingers!!!”.
The instructions appear to have been organised into four sections – ‘K’,‘D’,‘T’,‘A’ – which could be seen as representing kick-off, defence, turnover and attack.
There were suggestions last night that such an obvious use of briefing notes by Cheika and Ledesma, the former Argentina hooker credited with transforming Australia’s scrum into a major force at this tournament, were a deliberate bluff.
Nonetheless the incident added to the drama ahead of today’s match, the first Trans-Tasman final in the 28-year history of the tournament as both sides seek to become the first team to win the Webb Ellis Cup three times.
If Australia feel they may go into today’s game on the back foot, the superstitious among the squad might draw comfort from the fact that some of New Zealand’s highest profile defeats have come on Hallowe’en. Oct 31 had dawned in New Zealand when Newport defeated the touring All Blacks 3-0 in 1963, while Llanelli beat the Kiwis 9-3 at Stradey Park on this day in 1972.
Munster won 12-0 at Thomond Park on this date in 1978 and most memorably of all, France shocked John Hart’s side in the greatest ever World Cup contest with a 43-31 win in the World Cup semi-final in 1999.
Australia have lost 20 out of their past 25 meetings against New Zealand, but won their last meeting 27-19 in Sydney in August.
Cheika was dismissive when asked if that result had any significance on today’s game: “Ah mate, they say if you look backwards you’ll only get a sore neck. I have got a lot of belief in the team. We had a short space of time between the Rugby Championship and this. We know it’s going to be extremely physical and we have prepared accordingly.
“We want to bring physicality to the game too. It is also how you bring it technically and why you are doing it. It will be an interesting part of the game.”
Above all, Cheika wants to make his nation proud. “We have got our supporters in Australia enjoying the game again and that’s not marketing,” he added. “It is good for them to feel that they are attached to the team. We want to give them more to be proud of tomorrow.”
Steve Hansen, the New Zealand head coach, warned that his team have yet to reach their potential in this tournament as they aim to become the first side to retain the Webb Ellis Cup. Nor, he said, would they be overawed by the occasion.
“I believe we can get better,” said Hansen. “Will they do that on Saturday? The opposition has a lot to say on that. I know we’ve had a really good week. I know, win or lose, we’ll put in a performance we’ll be proud of. If that’s good enough to win, great; if not, we’ll look at ourselves and ask what we need to do better.
“But we won’t be inhibited by the occasion. This group is in a good place and excited about what’s coming, and we’ve got a bit of talent, so if we play well, the result might come our way.”
The VIPs attending the game include Prince Harry, who will present the trophy, along with Rugby Football Union president Jason Leonard, Prince Albert of Monaco, and John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister.