A nation expects. For New Zealand the pressure is on as they meet their great rivals Australia in a winner takes all for a place in the Rugby World Cup final this Sunday morning, kick off 9.00am(Irish Time)
Both sides come into this game struggling, with big names on both sides either out or with fitness questions hanging over them. While they have coped in some ways with the loss of Dan Carter, New Zealand will have breathed a huge sigh of relief with the news that flanker and captain Richie McCaw will be lining up against the Wallabies.
McCaw’s influence will be huge if New Zealand are to progress and take another step forward to their holy grail. Alongside McCaw, rejunivated scrumhalf Piri Weepu is another hugely influential player for the All Blacks and will play a huge role on Sunday.
Despite reaching the semi’s, one could argue that the All Blacks haven’t played to their potential in the World Cup thus far. Their win over France, while impressive, was achieved by playing an out of sorts French side and really only playing for the first 50 or so minutes.
New Zealand will have to play for the full 8 as standing in their way is a team that meantally and physically know that they can beat the All Blacks, Australia.
Robbie Dean’s outfit have bounced back from that shuddering defeat to Ireland in the pool stages to put themselves in with a great shout of making the final, in what would cap off an outstanding few months for the southern hemisphere side.
Having landed the Tri Nations before the World Cup the sole defeat to Ireland is the only blot on the Aussies copybook and they will feel fully confident coming into Sunday’s match. Speaking ahead of the game coach Robbie Deans is well aware that Richie McCaw is a huge threat to his side.
“Richie will play out of his skin,” said Deans, the New Zealander and former All Blacks assistant coach. “He’s one of those blokes. You’ve only got to look at the way he returns from injury after a long lay-off. He doesn’t work his way back into form and back into the game, he hits the ground running. We’re expecting the best from him.”
While semi finals are never easy to call one would have to fancy New Zealand, on their home turf and with destiny in their sights, to just about get past Australia in what should be a treat for rugby purists around the world. New Zealand by five.
NEW ZEALAND ( v Australian, Auckland, Sunday ): I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, R Kahui; A Cruden, P Weepu; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, O Franks; B Thorn, S Whitelock; J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), K Read. Replacements : A Hore, B Franks, A Williams, V Vito, A Ellis, S Donald, S Bill Williams.
Australia team to play New Zealand in Rugby World Cup semi-final, at Eden Park, Auckland on Sunday (kick-off: 9.00am BST): K Beale (NSW Waratahs) or A Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies); J O’Connor (Western Force), A Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies) or A Fainga’a (Queensland Reds), P McCabe (Brumbies), D Ioane (Queensland Reds); Q Cooper (Queensland Reds), W Genia (Queensland Reds); S Kepu (NSW Waratahs), S Moore (Brumbies), B Alexander (Brumbies), D Vickerman (NSW Waratahs), J Horwill (Queensland Reds, captain), R Elsom (Brumbies), D Pocock (Western Force), R Samo (Queensland Reds). Replacements: T Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs), J Slipper (Queensland Reds), R Simmons (Queensland Reds), B McCalman (Western Force), L Burgess (NSW Waratahs), B Barnes (NSW Waratahs), A Fainga’a (Queensland Reds) or R Horne (NSW Waratahs)