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Saturday sees the final of the Rugby World Cup, with southern hemisphere giants New Zealand and Australia set to battle it out for the William Webb Ellis trophy. Holders New Zealand are aiming to become the first side to ever successfully defend the title, while Australia are looking to win the tournament for the first time since 1999.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named an unchanged side as he relies on the team that overcame South Africa in the semi-finals. Captain Richie McCaw looks set to play his last match before retirement and for a number of All Blacks this will be their last appearance for the side. Fly-half Dan Carter is set to appear in his first ever World Cup final having missed out 4 years ago through injury. Saturday’s final will be his last appearance as an All Black before he moves to play in France. Centres Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith will also bow out on Saturday, with the pair set to play together for a record 62nd and final time. With Richie McCaw set to retire, the captaincy may well pass onto fellow back-rower Kieran Read who has been in fantastic form during the tournament. A quarter-final demolition over France was followed by victory over South Africa last weekend. Losing at half-time, a strong second-half performance has now given the All Blacks another shot at history come Saturday afternoon.
Australia have won only once in their last 12 matches against New Zealand but the victory did come earlier this year. A 27-19 win in Sydney saw Australia win the Rugby Championship and with recent winning form, coach Michael Cheika will be looking to harness the positive aspects of that performance as he looks to plot New Zealand’s downfall. Having navigated the so called ‘pool of death’ against England and Wales, Australia rode their luck against a plucky Scotland side in the quarter-finals before seeing off Argentina in the semis last weekend. An Adam Ashley-Cooper hat-trick was the highlight of last week’s victory but Australian indiscipline did allow Argentina to stay in the match through a number of successful penalties. Against a strong New Zealand side and with Dan Carter in fantastic form, Australia will need to ensure that their penalty count remains low. Australia seem to thrive playing in northern hemisphere World Cups, having won 22 out of their last 23 World Cup matches played north of the equator. Success on Sunday would see Australia become the first side ever to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy three times and they would love nothing more than to do it at the expense of their trans-Tasman rivals.
New Zealand are the 1.36 (4/11) favourites to lift the trophy on Saturday, with Australia available at 3.25 (9/4). The rugby bet for the World Cup final is New Zealand giving up a 6 point start on the handicap at odds of 2 (Evens).
By: Scott McGlynn