‘It’s always special to beat your brother’
Mick Cleary looks ahead to the final with two of the southern hemisphere’s finest, David Campese and Zinzan Brooke
Mick Cleary Campo and Zinny, legends of your sport, icons in your respective countries, great mates now but tell us, is it important to put one over on the other one, for Australia to beat New Zealand in today’s Rugby World Cup final?
David Campese Oh yeah. Look, I played the All Blacks 29 times and only won eight. That’s not a great record is it? But it was always the best of occasions. To try to be the best you have to want to learn from the best. Australia-New Zealand has always been like that. New Zealand is the smaller country, Australia a vast place, but in rugby we have always tried to learn. At least you know that when you play New Zealand you are going to have to earn that win. New Zealand can score with 10 seconds to go as they did the other year against Ireland and come back from nowhere. You’ve got to go the full 80 minutes. You can’t take any comfort from being 10 or 15 points up. It is never enough against these guys.
ZB There is respect there. For Kiwis, South Africa has always been the greatest challenge, but the rivalry with Australia is different. First time together in a World Cup final, though. That’s strange.
DC Look, it should have happened in 1987, believe me, there was a knock-on in the build-up to that last-minute French try in our semifinal against them.
ZB I’ve changed my views about the rivalry with the Aussies and a lot of that has to do with a documentary I contributed to about Gallipoli. It’s the 100th anniversary. My grandfather, Martin Brooke, fought there. And he used to talk about his great mate from there, an Aussie. I wondered what that was all about when I was young, my grandfather praising an Aussie, his best pal. Then I went to Gallipoli, to Walker’s Ridge, and did the whole story about the Anzacs. That’s when I began to feel a softer side towards the Aussies, embracing the Anzac spirit.
These guys made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the ultimate price. My grandfather was in the ditch with his Aussie mate. He died. Now I understand why he spoke of the Aussies so very fondly. And that’s become part of my legacy. That will be in there somewhere today, among all the sport and all that, there will be a sense of the Anzacs too. New Zealand against Australia is like two brothers going at each other. Always something special to beat your brother.
MC Are two old lags like you, who have been there, done that, excited about what lies in store? And who is going to win?
DC From where we have come from in the last five to six years, this is a dream for Australians. I know Michael Cheika, played with him, and everyone says he has done a great job getting us here. There has been an upturn this year, the Wallabies beating New Zealand and winning the Rugby Championship. Cheika has brought back a lot of pride, a lot of passion. We had Robbie Deans, a Kiwi, coaching us for a while and he didn’t really understand the Aussie style of playing. We are different. Bringing Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell back from France has brought a lot of knowledge and excitement back into the camp and into that Wallaby back line. For the first time in a long time, the Wallabies are being compared on more or less an equal basis to the Kiwis. Before there was New Zealand, then the rest. We have closed that gap. Now we have beaten them as well [in Sydney this year] a lot of the doubt has gone.
ZB I think it was good that the Wallabies beat us. I obviously didn’t want them to go back to back [New Zealand won in Auckland a week later]. I was not too concerned about the first defeat but I did want to see a response from the All Blacks. It was emphatic and calculated.
MC So, Cheika has pulled the Wallabies up by their boot straps. Is getting to the final a triumph in itself ?
DC Look, for me, Australia has got to win or Cheika hasn’t done a great job. Where union sits in Australia with league and rules, we need more kids to play our game and winning a World Cup would go a long way to delivering that. New Zealand doesn’t have that problem as rugby is a religion there. If the team plays to its ability, it will be close. I don’t care if it is one point or 21 points, as long as you win.
ZB Look, it can go either way but I think we’re a little bit ahead of Australia, just through the experience these guys have got, what they have done, what they can do. Australia have had to come through the hard way, through a tough pool. Can the Wallabies keep producing that? I do wonder if they can. Clearly, I have got to go the All Black way, by three or four points.
MC Where will the key sporting battles be today?
DC The back row of course, the master and the apprentice, Richie Crunch: Nehe Milner-Skudder feels the force of Israel Folau (left) and Matt Giteau in the Bledisloe Cup clash in Sydney in August McCaw and David Pocock. Pocock was unbelievable against Argentina. He was throwing himself in horizontal. That is what brings a lot to the game if you have guys playing with that fearlessness and enthusiasm.
ZB The teams match off at the setpiece, they can both get ball from scrum and line-out, quality ball on the front foot, both sides are going to attack. Both sides can fire shots at each other, from anywhere and by any means, as we’ve seen with the Aussie driving line-out with Pocock tucked in at the back. The
Wallabies scavenge well, as does McCaw of course, so the margins there between them will be small.
DC You’ve got Dan Carter up against Bernard Foley. Carter was terrific against France in the quarter-final, the best I have seen from him in years. I think he’s realised that as this is his last World Cup, it is all or nothing. The 8-9-10 combination is key to what happens. The Kiwis have three of the best in the world through there. As for the full-backs, I don’t think we have seen the best yet from Ben Smith, great player that he is, and Israel Folau hasn’t shone at all, carrying that ankle injury. The wings can all score tries and that’s good for the fans. Savea got three against France, AshleyCooper got his hat-trick against the Pumas, so you have got guys who can finish. The Australian scrum has gone from being very good to not being good at all against Argentina. But if we can get parity, and we have shown that we can scrum in the Rugby Championship, we can get some good ball and these guys can run at each other.
ZB The backs are very strong out to the wing. Ben Smith, I agree Campo, has not been at his absolute best but he’s an exciting player. Maybe this weekend is the time. But here is the big difference. Australia are good at the first phase, strong at the second and third phase, OK at the fourth phase, but where the All Blacks will break the Aussies down is on the phases beyond that, on getting a mismatch, like a Milner-Skudder on a prop or a lock.
Phases seven, eight, nine, 10 could be telling, as against Argentina. The Pumas in the late stages were on top. I was looking at the body language of the Wallabies in those late stages, and their bums were on the ground, trying to suck in the air. The Argentines kept coming. I’m sure Steve Hansen will have taken note.
DC Argentina made more breaks than Australia but they didn’t play as a team, and they didn’t give the simple pass when it was needed. These two teams today play as teams. If the pass is the right option, they pass. Cheika has made the Wallabies a team. Australia did struggle, you’re right Zinny, when they got into those high number of phases. Argentina should have scored a couple of tries. But they didn’t link up. They played as individuals.
Today is completely different. You’ve got great individuals, such as Milner-Skudder, and what a sidestep but you’ve got great teamwork in action, too. Another thing that strikes me about these line-ups is that take MilnerSkudder, not tall, Matt Giteau, not tall, you don’t need all these giants, like a George North or whoever. It is stepping and swerving as well, cheeky little guys getting around.
ZB At the breakdown, you’ve got to be quick. Back in the day with us, it used to be all about the magic three seconds at the ruck, one, two, three and ball gone. I was counting it with Australia and boom, gone in two seconds, so they get it on the move. Our guys are going to have to watch it.
MC And refereeing? Will that play a part?
DC It is getting to the stage where you want the ref to be instructed to just go and enjoy it, play it as you see it. Not pre-told, we want you to look at this or that.
Wayne Barnes blew up last week for this and that. Just enjoy it. Nigel Owens is good. He tends to ref what’s in front of him.
ZB We want the game to be dominant, not the ref.
DC And let’s not have the ref going to the TMO every five seconds. Nigel is in charge and he should just officiate.
The world is tuning in to watch the players, not listen to a bloke in a TV van.
MC What about the coaches in this final? Michael Cheika and Steve Hansen. Both strong characters and big figures. What influence will they have?
ZB Both are excellent and even though neither have played at the top level, they have had a key role. It’s a tough job, getting 31 guys in a squad on the same hymn sheet. There are different emotional agendas in a squad too to deal with. They have both done that.
MC There are a lot of players who are bowing out this weekend. Where do you rank two of them, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter?
DC Richie’s done a good shift, not lost many either, eh? Carter has had some injuries but come back strongly. I liked that dropped goal of his last week against South Africa. Clever. The pair of them are smart, great leaders, and respected by all their team-mates.
ZB I still can’t believe how Richie has lasted given the punishment his body takes: 147 Tests. He deserves his status, even to the point of being booed when he got sin-binned at Wembley. Those jeers were a tribute really. Dan was under pressure coming in to this World Cup but he’s been solid, exceptional, in fact, against France. Two great guys, two great ambassadors.
MC And is a cracking final in prospect?
ZB I’d say so, too. With an All Black win!
‘Let’s not have the ref going to the TMO every five seconds’