Will the jolly swagmen lift the trophy? Don’t ask me, I’m no expert

Andrew Jardine Roar Guru

By , Andrew Jardine is a Roar Guru


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    Will Australia’s jolly swagmen waltz with off the Webb Ellis Trophy or will they come to a sticky end like the swagman who did after stealing a sheep?

    Saturday’s World Cup will not be played at an Australian bush camp and the winners will not celebrate at a nearby watering hole or billabong.

    The celebrations will be held at Twickenham and if the New Zealanders become the first team to ever successfully defend the trophy, I won’t be surprised if they throw in a few lamb chops along with the beers to the Wallabies.

    Before the final, the Wallabies will sing Advance Australia Fair and the All Blacks God Defend New Zealand and the celebrations will be at Twickenham, far from the Outback, under a coolibah tree, from where the song and story of Waltzing Matilda came.

    I am sure that New Zealanders don’t care a hoot whether the Australians steal a sheep or two from their flocks. However, the gleaming gold trophy is another matter. Pride and honour are at stake and I expect a tough fight.

    If predictions and the past mean anything, the World Cup organisers could hold the presentation ceremony first, give the trophy to the All Blacks and hold the match afterwards. However, they would have looked silly if they had done that before Japan shocked South Africa in a pool match.

    The New Zealanders have won the World Cup twice (1987 and 2011), were runner-up once (1995) have reached the semi-finals three times (1991, 1999, 2003), the quarter-finals once (2007) in the seven tournaments so far.

    Australia have not made a final in 12 years and last carried off the trophy in 1999 when John Eales captained them. Along with New Zealand and South Africa, they are the only other team to have won the tournament twice (they won in in 1991, too).

    However, their current coach Michael Cheika has turned the Wallabies into a formidable force. They may have a wonky scrum, but they have powerful forwards and an inventive backline.

    In David Pocock, they have a man who can match or even shade New Zealand’s arch thief, Richie McCaw, at pilfering the ball at the breakdown. And their back three of Pocock, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy are a dangerous combination.

    They have an excellent defence. England, Wales and Argentina managed only one try between them against them. They also have a potent attack. They have scored 26 tries at an average of 4.33 per game in the tournament.

    Their pivot Bernard Foley can thread the posts as well as All Blacks ace Dan Carter and as always the boot will play a crucial role. The one weakness is their scrum. They were out-scrummed by Argentina and they will have to up their game.

    On record and on paper, Steve Hansen’s charges are going to be difficult to thwart in their quest for glory. They have a good scrum, fleet-footed forwards and backs, a tight defence and, above all, a game plan they can vary at the drop of a few points.

    They have won 48 of their past Test 52 matches and that is a statistic that even Mark Twain, who once called statistics damn lies, would have been hard-pressed to ignore.

    I can’t think of one facet of the game in which New Zealand are weak. One of their main strengths is looking at the way their opponents are playing and working out a way to win.

    Confidence is always key. The All Blacks have won so often, they believe they will win no matter what. The Wallabies on the other hand know that they have to play in the belief that victory is possible.

    That jolly swagman obviously believed that he could have got away with stealing that sheep. There is no point in doing something like that if you don’t believe you will succeed.

    Who’s going to win? Will the Aussies put the trophy in a swag bag slung over their backs or will the New Zealanders shear them as expertly as they do their sheep? Don’t ask me. I am not an expert.

    Going back more than a few years, I remember the days when as a 10-year-old schoolboy, I predicted that Basil Kenyon’s Springboks would beat Fred Allen’s 1949 New Zealand tourists.

    A schoolmate responded: โ€œYou think you’re an expert. I think an expert is a drip under pressure.โ€

    I had the last laugh though, but have realised over the years the expert business is fraught with problems, so count me out.

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