2015 RWC Final: Wallabies v All Blacks – World Cup Flashbacks
The early hours of tomorrow morning will see either Australia or New Zealand win a record third World Cup, as the two Antipodean heavyweights clash for the first time ever in the game’s showpiece decider.
One of the fiercest rivalries in international rugby has been played out on the world stage before of course, but only at semi-final time in 1991, 2003 and 2011. The Wallabies edge that particular series 2-1 with a win in Dublin in 1991 sending them on to their first William Webb Ellis trophy, while a repeat performance 12 years later in Sydney earned a place in the epic 2003 final, decided by a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal.
The most recent encounter was only four years ago at the last tournament, where a fired up All Blacks gained some revenge at the graveyard of Wallaby dreams, Eden Park, before going on to claim their long-awaited second World Cup title a week later against France.
Rugby News caught up with three former Wallaby greats this week – Simon Poidevin, Lote Tuqiri and Pat McCabe – to take a look back at each occasion, whilst also gauging their thoughts ahead of the biggest meeting ever between the trans-Tasman rivals.
1991 WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL, LANSDOWNE ROAD, DUBLIN
(David Campese, Tim Horan tries; Michael Lynagh con, 2 pens)
NEW ZEALAND 6
(Grant Fox 2 pens)
Wallabies: 1. Tony Daly; 2. Phil Kearns; 3. Ewen McKenzie; 4. Rod McCall; 5. John Eales; 6. Simon Poidevin; 7. Willie Ofahengaue; 8. Troy Coker; 9. Nick Farr-Jones; 10. Michael Lynagh; 11. David Campese; 12. Tim Horan; 13. Jason Little; 14. Rob Egerton; 15. Marty Roebuck
All Blacks: 1. Steve McDowell; Sean Fitzpatrick; 3. Richard Loe; 4. Ian Jones; 5. Gary Whetton (c); 6. Alan Whetton; 7. Zinzan Brooke; 8. Mark Carter; 9. Graeme Bachop; 10. Grant Fox; 11. John Timu; 12. Bernie McCahill; 13. Craig Innes; 14. John Kirwan; 15. Kieran Crowley
Memories of the game?
Simon Poidevin: “There were scary similarities to what the Wallabies found against Scotland in this tournament. We’d had our near-death experience against Ireland in the Quarter-Final and you don’t realise how disappointed you could have been had we lost that match. We were running back to the line thinking the World Cup was over and it made that World Cup mission a bit like ‘We’ve got to win this’ and I think the Wallabies did the same against Scotland this time out.
“After that game our catch-cry was ‘We’re not going to go to Cardiff’, because that was where the third/fourth place play-off was going to take place and it was just the most intense week of training. There was a bit of, almost separation, between the backs and forwards as the forwards were getting overly aggressive. It was so fiery in fact that there was a brawl at training at Trinity College in Dublin between the shadow team and the first team, which was great, because you knew guys were on the edge.
“The game saw probably the best 40-50 minutes the Wallabies had played for 30 years. We absolutely stormed the All Blacks and everywhere they looked there were Wallaby forwards and Wallaby backs coming at them from all directions.”
They were the best in the world at that point and favourites going in, was that a motivation, going in as a slight underdog with a chance to knock off the no.1 side?
“It was because there were a few guys that had survived from the ’87 side when we lost very disappointingly to the French that time at Concord, so it was the last chance for a few of us to get that title. The All Blacks did have a degree of arrogance about them at the time and they had two coaches who were at each other in Alex ‘Grizz’ Wyllie and John Hart. We knew there was a bit of disruption in the camp and that they were a team that were potentially unstable and that was something we fed on. Their outward persona was one of strength and ‘We’re the best’ but they did have problems internally.
“To tell you the truth, we also won over the Irish people in Dublin, we became their team. The Kiwi supporters arrived and showed a bit of arrogance and a bit of aggression and that didn’t go down well and that was another positive for us.”
Had the team or the coaches prepared for a potential semi-final against the All Blacks or was it strictly one game at a time?
“It’s funny you say that because we lost in Auckland to the All Blacks earlier that year – we beat them in Sydney and lost to them in Auckland – and we thought that was potentially the best loss we ever had because it made us hungry. We knew we the way the draw worked, we were always going to play them in that Dublin semi-final so we knew that was the game to seek revenge.
“It was a phenomenal performance in defence and attack in the first half, they had most of the ball in the second half and again, it was a phenomenal performance in defence. We were a very fit team that prided itself on that and that really shone through in that match.We really ambushed them and they never recovered in the second half.”
2003 WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL, STADIUM AUSTRALIA, SYDNEY
(Stirling Mortlock try; Elton Flatley con, 5 pens)
NEW ZEALAND 10
(Reuben Thorne try; Leon MacDonald con, pen)
Wallabies: 1. Bill Young; 2. Brendan Cannon; 3. Ben Darwin; 4. Justin Harrison; 5. Nathan Sharpe; 6. George Smith; 7. Phil Waugh; 8. David Lyons; 9. George Gregan (c); 10. Stephen Larkham; 11. Lote TuqirI; 12. Elton Flatley; 13. Stirling Mortlock; 14. Wendell Sailor; 15. Mat Rogers
All Blacks: 1. Dave Hewett; Keven Mealamu; 3. Greg Somerville; 4. Kieran Jack; 5. Ali Williams; 6. Reuben Thorne (c); 7. Richie McCaw; 8. Jerry Collins; 9. Justin Marshall; 10. Carlos Spencer; 11. Joe Rokocoko; 12. Aaron Mauger; 13. Leon MacDonald; 14. Dougie Howlett; 15. Mils Muliaina
Memories of the game?
Lote Tuqiri: “Personally, I remember tackling Mils Muliaina in the corner and they went to the video ref who decided he’d knocked the ball on so it was a bit of a try saver! But the main memory of that game is ‘Snorky’ Mortlock’s intercept try where he ran 70-odd metres. We bamboozled them from the start, got that try pretty early and we didn’t really let them back in after that. We built a quiet confidence after things had gone our way in that first half and we were able to close it out and bring it home.
“We changed up our tactics a bit for that match, we were playing a lot of one-off, two-pass rugby but I remember the game plan from the kick-off was to spin it wide and run them around, show them something that they hadn’t seen from us in that World Cup. That’s what we worked on that week in training. We knew we could throw the ball a bit and play with ball in hand but we just hadn’t really done it and I think that was what Eddie Jones kept up his sleeve. We kicked-off as we’d planned and we made a few metres and it took them a while to readjust their game and by then it was too late. Beating the All Blacks when they were favourites was sensational.
“The other thing that was memorable was that we shared a beer with the All Blacks in the sheds afterwards and players don’t do that too much anymore. I remember talking to Brad Thorn, who I knew from the Broncos, Ma’a Nonu who is still playing now, and Richie McCaw. They obviously weren’t that jovial and they were very disappointed but they were willing to share a beer, which was nice.”
The All Blacks came in as huge favourites for this one, did that inspire the Wallabies to victory?
“We were up in Coffs Harbour for the week and we just felt that we had nothing to lose. We were under a little bit of pressure as the host nation but not too much by comparison to the All Blacks, they’d been the best team in the tournament, they were favourites to win it alongside England and they’d smashed us earlier in the year at the same ground by about 50. We knew we could beat them if we performed and that no-one was really expecting us to beat them so the only real pressure we had we put on ourselves.”
Had the team or the coaches prepared for a potential semi-final against the All Blacks or was it strictly one game at a time?
“If they were they didn’t tell us but they probably did. Eddie Jones has everything mapped out, he dot’s every ‘i’ and crosses every ‘t’ so I wouldn’t be surprised if they did have that mapped out but as players, we were just going week-to-week. If you looked at the draw, you knew you might meet them at some point but we certainly didn’t take any teams for granted along the way and the Scots were pretty tough in the Quarter-Final. I’m sure England were cheering when we beat the All Blacks in the semi anyway!”
2011 WORLD CUP SEMI-FINAL, EDEN PARK, AUCKLAND
NEW ZEALAND 20
(Ma’a Nonu try; Piri Weepu 4 pens, Aaron Cruden drop goal)
(James O’Connor pen, Quade Cooper drop goal)
All Blacks: 1. Tony Woodcock; Keven Mealamu; 3. Owen Franks; 4. Brad Thorn; 5. Sam Whitelock; 6. Jerome Kaino; 7. Richie McCaw (c); 8. Kieran Read; 9. Piri Weepu; 10. Aaron Cruden; 11. Richard Kahui; 12. Ma’a Nonu; 13. Conrad Smith; 14. Cory Jane; 15. Israel Dagg
Wallabies: 1. Sekope Kepu; 2. Stephen Moore; 3. Ben Alexander; 4. Dan Vickerman; 5. James Horwill (c); 6. Rocky Elsom; 7. David Pocock; 8. Radike Samo; 9. Will Genia; 10. Quade Cooper; 11. Digby Ioane; 12. Pat McCabe; 13. Anthony Fainga’a; 14. James O’Connor; 15. Adam Ashley-Cooper
Memories of the game?
Pat McCabe: “There’s probably a bit of selective memory at play but the actual game itself is a bit of a blur to be honest! I remember a lot of the build up in the week before. Auckland was at fever pitch and it was us playing a home nation in a World Cup semi-final and every time we left the hotel people were speaking about the game.
“Obviously, there was a fairly strong New Zealand presence and they saw us as the enemy that were playing them at the weekend and it was a really intense week. I remember a lot of noise during the haka before kick-off and their anthem was pretty deafening and I remember them starting pretty quickly and feeling like we were on the back foot for most of the first half but that’s pretty much it!”
The team came in off the back of a bruising, brutal victory over the Springboks – you were effectively playing with one shoulder for most of the match. Did that game take too much out of the Wallabies’ tank?
“It’s hard to know. I think we had a reasonably long turnaround after the game against South Africa and it was certainly a physically and emotionally draining game. They had most of the possession in that game and we were certainly on the back foot the whole time and we were pretty battered and bruised. We had a relatively light preparation week off back of that just because of what the quarter-final had taken out of us.
“I was pretty uncomfortable afterwards and I don’t think I did too much training during the week, which is never ideal leading into a big game but those opportunities don’t come around too often. The coaches were keen for me to get out there again and I didn’t want to let the team down so I strapped it up again and got on with it.”
The All Blacks at Eden Park has been the Wallabies’ kryptonite for almost 30 years now. Are players able to put that out of their minds or does that unenviable record inevitably sit there whether you want it to or not?
“I don’t know, it’s certainly not front of mind but whether it sits somewhere deep in the subconscious I’m not too sure. You know they’re going to be strong at Eden Park so you’re especially keen for all the little things to go well for you – particularly the start. When we didn’t start well and they got some points I think you do begin to think ‘This is going to be a long way back for us from here.’ They were pretty sharp and pretty on top of their game through the whole 80 minutes.”
How do you reflect on the match now – a missed opportunity?
“To be honest, I don’t spend too much time dwelling on those ‘what if’s?’ We’d made it hard for ourselves in that tournament by losing to Ireland in the pool stages and that was something that sat with me for a while because I felt I’d played badly and let the team down in that match. At the time, I found the tournament was very mentally draining but I can look back on the experience fondly now. To have played in a World Cup semi-final against a host nation, it doesn’t get a lot bigger than that and it was certainly the biggest and most intense atmosphere that I’ve ever experienced. We just didn’t get the result we wanted.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT…?
Only South Africa have a better record against the All Blacks than the Wallabies, who have won 42 of the 105 tests between the two countries. Unlike the majority of test playing nations, the Wallabies aren’t intimidated by their cousins across the ditch are they?
Simon Poidevin: “Whether it be at Super Rugby level or Rugby Championship, we do play those New Zealand players a lot and we do realise they’re mortals not immortals. They’re an extremely good team, they’re even more dangerous because they’re playing for Richie McCaw in his last game, that is a motivation for them. But at the same time, the mental battle between Michael Cheika and Steve Hansen is the standout clash of this game. I think Cheika has Hansen a bit rattled.”
Lote Tuqiri: “We’re not scared of them, a lot of teams are, but this current crop in particular, I don’t see them having any fears about this All Black team. We’re just blessed to be neighbours with them to be honest because we get to play them a fair bit and that has really helped our game. If you saw what the Argentineans did at this tournament, they’ve probably improved as much as they have from an attacking point of view because of their participation in the Rugby Championship, and from seeing what it takes to beat the All Blacks and that isn’t by playing 10-man rugby or purely off a dominant scrum. That’s something we’ve been learning for years because we play them so often.”
What are the key areas the Wallabies will need to do well in, in order to lift that famous trophy?
Simon Poidevin: “The lineout is an area which has not been up to the standard of the rest of our play and Bernard Foley’s goal-kicking versus Dan Carter is an area of risk for us. But where I think the game will be won is at the breakdown. Pocock, Fardy and Hooper did the heads of the All Blacks in earlier this year in Sydney, they just didn’t know how to handle that combination and it’s hard to play against. Richie McCaw played his heart out in that game but everywhere he turned there was either Pocock or Hooper there and you start to run out of gas.
“Jerome Kaino is an outstanding player but he’s not an on-the-ball number six and Kieran Read is very good on the ball but it’s still two against three in many ways. I would expect that Steve Hansen will be saying to his team that they’re all flankers and they all have to clean these blokes out. But the way the All Blacks have been playing in this competition, everyone is disruptive at the breakdown, so we’ve got to do the same. The only thing they respect is pain, you give it back to them, they start to realise there’s a fight on – you can’t show any weakness.”
Lote Tuqiri: “Obviously the backrow battle will be brutal. I think Richie McCaw will take it upon himself to lift his team and that probably means nullifying Pocock and Hooper and that’s probably where the game will be won and lost. The lineout could be a concern, we’ve had some issues there and they’ve got a few taller options I think but hopefully we can gain that back in the ruck.
“Things just seem to be flowing in our backline, guys are really using the ball and the skill level in this team is very high. They’re happy passing it from both sides, the ball is out in front, our moves seem to be nice and crisp and there are options inside and out and they are things we’ve probably lacked at different times in the past. Guys go hunting for the ball, they’re not always having to get it, but they’re always threatening and that tires out defences.
“We’ve also got a good bench that can come on and really make a difference and I think our backline stocks in particular may be stronger. Izzy has been kept quiet, he’s yet to explode but he’s a big game player and I’m looking for him to go well but if he’s struggling with that ankle then we have a more than willing and able replacement in Kurtley Beale. I’ve been very impressed with him throughout the tournament, he’s made a big impact off the bench and he looks fit, he looks quick and he looks strong. I haven’t seen him looking like this for about three or four years and he looks like he’s mentally switched on too, which is only a good thing for the team.”
Pat McCabe: “Pocock, Hooper and Fardy have had an outstanding tournament, they’ve offset each other really well. But if you look across both sides, all six of the backrowers are incredibly fit and incredibly durable and they’ll just keep coming at each other for the full 80 minutes or for as long as they’re out there.
“I think Matt Giteau has a role to play. Off the field he offers leadership and confidence, on the field it’s his cool head, his playing skills, his left foot kicking game and he’s also really fit and in big games like this, you want really fit guys on the park. He’s been superb across the tournament, he’s made a lot of cover tackles, scrambled really well and chased back when he’s needed to. Having someone like that out there, someone you know will go the full 80 minutes and who wants the ball in the big moments, is great for the rest of the team and for the coaches.”
Million dollar question – can they do it?
Simon Poidevin: “I’m of a firm belief we can because we’ve had the hardest run through the World Cup and that’s sometimes a good thing – we probably had one of the hardest runs through the ’91 World Cup. The team is battle hardened – sure, they’re knocked around a bit – but they are battle hardened and they are so full of self-belief and resilience. We’ve got a scrum that can give us at least parity with the All Blacks, possibly we can even move them; we’ve got a backline which is attacking with a level of precision that I don’t think we’ve seen in 20 years of Australian rugby – Steve Larkham has got that part of the game well and truly firing – and our defence has been phenomenal.”
Lote Tuqiri: “Both teams are quite evenly poised but I think we’re a little bit more match-hardened, if that’s an advantage. We’ve certainly played some tough rugby and when you saw the state of David Pocock after last weekend and then you see the All Blacks, they’re not battered and bruised like we are. But you never know against them.
“At the back of their heads they’ll know we beat them earlier in the year, this is a one-off game, there’s no next week and if there were two teams they didn’t want to play it was probably the French and us. They beat the French easily but if there is one team that can beat them it’s us and we’re playing some pretty good, consistent rugby. I’ve just got that feeling that we’re going to get there, I don’t know what it is because obviously the All Blacks are very capable and very experienced and a lot of them have won one already but I just think it’s our time.”
Pat McCabe: “I think they can. They’ve got a strong identity in the way they want to play and a belief in themselves individually and that’s half the battle at the top end of the sport. I think that’s something the team has done really well in the last year or so, have their identity and base it on hard work and preparation, their own Australian style, and that’s something that Michael Cheika has instilled in this group. They haven’t adapted too much to the opposition, they’ve said ‘This is us, this is the way we play and we back ourselves do it better than you’ and that’s something the All Blacks have done for a long time.
“There’s no secrets with the All Blacks, you pretty much know exactly what they’re going to do, it’s just a question of whether you’re good enough to stop it. I’ve been very impressed with the way the guys have gone about their work and the way they’ve prepared themselves for this tournament, I think it’s probably the hardest they have trained. That hard work and effort creates a lot of confidence and I think they look to be in good shape.
“There’ll be a bit of existing fatigue for both sides but I think the Wallabies have set themselves up really well with the games that they’ve had leading into the final. They know they’ve done it against the All Blacks before this year and they’re certainly good enough to do it again but I think to an extent previous history goes out the window. I think they’re pretty evenly matched sides so there’ll be a handful of moments where it could go either way and one side will either crack under immense pressure or respond. Australia by five points.”
First published by Rugby News on: October 31st, 2015