New Zealand and Australia 'to produce historic World Cup final'
By Alex Payne, Sky Sports presenter
Last Updated: 30/10/15 12:31pm
Alex Payne offers up his Rugby World Cup final preview and predictions - tipping records to be broken in a mouthwatering showdown between New Zealand and Australia...
So it is the purist's final; the best two teams in the world on the grandest stage of all, and I think we could be in for an absolute belter.
Historically, World Cup finals are low on quality but high on tension. I think Saturday may well buck the trend, and that there is money to be made in backing points and point-scorers.
Both of these two teams have played some fantastic rugby, and I think we may well get the highest scoring final in history - surpassing the 47 points totalled in 1999 when Australia thumped France, which is priced up at 6/4 with Sky Bet. That price might look short given the history of this showpiece match, but five of the last eight games between these two have totalled above 47 points, with the average over the eight matches an impressive 54 points.
Two of the previous seven World Cup finals have failed to produce a try, but think that is unlikely with these two. With regards to the last eight meetings above, if you remove the penalty-dominated 12-12 draw that played out in a Sydney downpour a year ago, the other seven games have averaged six tries a game (17/2 for exactly six tries on Saturday). I think we will see a new record for tries in a final, beating the four of 1987.
For Australia, so much rests on the combination of David Pocock and Michael Hooper. New Zealand will be only too aware of the danger they pose at the breakdown, having been stung by them in the 27-19 loss in Sydney this summer.
As a result, I expect the All Blacks to play with width and to keep the ball off the floor, with Australia perhaps leaning more on set pieces and set plays. With the weather set fair and Nigel Owens refereeing we have all the ingredients we need for the tournament's finale.
With points winning the ultimate prize this weekend, I am going to offer up a number of try scorers for you but my must-play is Adam Ashley-Cooper once again (11/4 anytime). He has scored more tries against the All Blacks than anyone else in the history of the game; nine in 28 tests, while four in the two knockout games indicates he's bang in form. On the other wing, Drew Mitchell is 3/1 to score the try that would make him the top try scorer in Rugby World Cup history.
Agree with Alex? Follow his Sky Bet tips, including an Ashley-Cooper try at 11/4, here.
No player has ever scored more than one try in the final, but Julian Savea and Ashley-Cooper have both scored hat-tricks in the knockout stages while Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Mitchell have both scored doubles: now seems as good a time as any to go for two or more.
Although New Zealand's wingers have scored 16 of their 36 tries at this tournament, Savea hasn't had a great time of it against Australia - just two tries in eight tests against them. He is 13/8 for an anytime try and 8/1 for a double, while Nehe Milner-Skudder scored a double on his debut against the Wallabies this summer and is 9/1 to repeat the feat.
It is also worth factoring the try-scoring exploits of forwards in World Cup finals - five of the 11 tries in previous finals have been scored by the lumps up front (including our 66/1 first try-scorer four years ago - Tony Woodcock). If you fancy another prop to score, then Sekope Kepu would be my play (another 66/1 first try-scorer, 16/1 anytime) - he may only have scored two Test tries but one was against New Zealand in the win this summer.
A nod across the front row to All Blacks hooker Dane Coles (5/1 anytime) who has scored two tries in his last three games with the Wallabies. Elsewhere, Jerome Kaino has scored in the quarters and the semis, and is 7/1 for the try to give him the clean sweep. A word of warning though - the Wallabies haven't conceded a try to a forward in this tournament.
I'm going to finish with the fairy-tales - this is likely to be the final time we see two of the game's greatest players on the international stage. If you fancy the heroic send off then Dan Carter is 22/1 to score the final try, while Richie McCaw is 20/1 for the last five-pointer - the All Black captain has an impressive 11 tries in 36 Tests against the Wallabies. A more realistic outcome might be the 6/1 available on either as man of the match.
As for the result, well I have wrestled with this for a week. Australia lead New Zealand 2-1 in World Cup meetings, but have only won one of the last 12 clashes. The All Blacks are current world champions, but Australia have won both of their tournaments in the northern hemisphere. It is 1-1 in the meetings this season and if you want to highlight how tight it is, there is only one per cent difference between Dan Carter and Bernard Foley as goal kickers.
So how do you separate them? Well, if you can't the draw is available at 28/1; two of the previous seven finals needing extra time to sort them. But I just think the extra day's rest may make the difference at the end of a six-week marathon, and I fancy New Zealand to sneak it late on.
I am going to play both teams to score 20 points or more, and New Zealand to win the match at 4/1.