Stick with what you know and trust. That’s largely the theme of the All Blacks team for the Rugby World Cup final against Australia.
Prop Joe Moody’s impressive form has seen him earn a starting spot for the Twickenham showdown with Wyatt Crockett ruled out of the final after pulling up lame in training. It’s a real doff of the cap from coach Steve Hansen for Moody’s rapid emergence, given he only joined the squad two-and-a-half weeks ago after veteran prop Tony Woodcock’s tournament-ending hamstring injury.
It had been hoped Crockett would play a role from the bench, however, his injury means Ben Franks comes on to the bench.
Otherwise, Hansen has remained loyal as expected and the team naming was never going to create any major ripples.
This core group have built a formidable record over the past four years, losing three games in that time and charting a composed path through the knockout stages. Hansen now trusts them to follow through on the biggest stage against the Wallabies, the trans-Tasman foe.
Consistency of selection has been a feature of the sudden death rounds. The All Blacks have made just one injury-enforced change (before Crockett’s) in the past three weeks, with Crockett making way for Moody last week.
In this regard lessons have been absorbed from previous failed campaigns.
The backline in particular has been given time to settle. Waisake Naholo’s inclusion on the left wing in the last pool match against Tonga almost a month ago was the last tweak – a far cry from the 12 changes made for the quarterfinal in 2007.
There can certainly be no excuses about a lack of cohesion in the Twickenham finale on Sunday (NZT).
Like the semifinal against the Springboks at the same venue, where Kiwis voiced their vocal chants in the tense closing stages, it would not surprise to see All Blacks enjoy dominant support from New Zealanders and neutrals.
“We’ve really enjoyed the interaction with the people of England and Wales throughout the Rugby World Cup, as well as with our own Kiwi fans who’ve travelled and those who have stayed at home,” Hansen said. “We’ve been really well looked after by our various hosts around the UK and I know as a group we have enjoyed the tournament, both on-field and off-field because of this.
“We came here as contenders for the Cup, just like everyone else. In our minds, we have never been defenders. We knew we would have to earn the right to progress through the tournament so being in the final is very satisfying in its own right, as it’s the first Rugby World Cup final an All Blacks team has made in the UK. But the ultimate goal has always been to win it, so we are exactly where we need to be to try and achieve that.
“Both teams have arrived at the final by different pathways. We’ve had the luxury of building game by game throughout the whole tournament, whilst Australia have had to be at their very best right from day one. Mental fortitude and physical endurance, together with skill execution and sheer desire, will be the key ingredients.
“We’ve had a great preparation so far this week at Pennyhill; the boys are feeling really fresh and energised. We’re building towards the match with a growing sense of determination and real excitement and I couldn’t be happier with where we are at.”
ALL BLACKS: Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams
Leave a Reply