Over the last five weeks, union fans have been treated to some fantastic rugby, full of intrigue, excitement and no little drama. From Japan’s heroics, to England’s elimination and Scotland’s dreadful misfortune, there’s been no shortage of talking points. The Rugby World Cup 2015 has certainly been one to remember, whether you’ve been watching the action on TV or in the stands.
All we need now is a final that meets the standard set by the rest of the tournament. Saturday’s clash between New Zealand and Australia promises much on paper, but with so much at stake when the two Southern Hemisphere titans clash at Twickenham, it might just be a tight, tentative affair. Both sides know that a single slip, trip or knock-on could see the Webb Ellis Cup slip through their grasp.
Semi-finals lived up to expectations
Fans were certainly treated to two fantastic semi-finals, with the epic contest between the All Blacks and South Africa being followed by a similarly engaging match between Australia and Argentina. The two favourites emerged triumphant, with class winning out in the end, but it could have been very different. For a short while, it looked like a significant upset was on the cards.
When South Africa opened up a five-point lead over New Zealand, in treacherous conditions, Springboks fans could be forgiven for getting their hopes up. Each member of their XV put their necks on the line, defending for their lives against the all-conquering Kiwis. As it happened, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Similarly, Argentina had their moments in their semi-final, fighting back from an early Aussie blitz to reduce the deficit to just seven points with a quarter to go. In the end, the 29-15 scoreline was a little flattering. The Pumas have been great value throughout the World Cup and will surely only improve further now they have annual fixtures with the top international sides.
Who will win the Rugby World Cup?
Winning the Rugby World Cup represents the pinnacle of any union player’s career – this is the one achievement every professional dreams of adding to their CV. It’s what turns mere mortals into legends of the game, and the All Blacks and Wallabies involved on Saturday need no greater motivation. They know what is at stake, but now they have to go and create history.
Purely based on their record over the last four years, New Zealand will be the fancied side ahead of the final. They show no apparent weaknesses, balancing incisive attack with solid defence, safe in the knowledge that Dan Carter’s boot will see them through should the going get tough. But if the Australians bring their A-game, mix it at the breakdown and get the run of the ball, anything is possible.
As history has shown, defending this trophy is far from easy – it’s never been done. An early try for Australia or a couple of penalties might just get the All Blacks rattled. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure – it’s going to be epic.
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