Sun, Oct 23, 2011 - Page 20 News List

RUGBY WORLD CUP: A look at the starting XV for today’s World Cup final

New Zealand

15 — ISRAEL DAGG has made the All Blacks fullback spot his own with some superb attacking rugby and his ability under the high ball. He shredded the Australian midfield twice early in the semi-final, setting up the opening try after getting outside the defense on an angled run to the right corner before unloading for unmarked Ma’a Nonu.

14 — CORY JANE has had two outstanding games on the right wing since being reprimanded for a drunken night out after the pool stage. He was voted man-of-the-match in the semi-final win over Australia, when he was phenomenal in defusing the high kicks and counterattacking the Wallabies.

13 — CONRAD SMITH is a level head in midfield who is solid in defense and knows his way to the try line.

12 — MA’A NO has been a dynamic influence in the centers all season. A blockbusting runner who can offload amid tackles and a heavy defender, Nonu is the go-to man when the All Blacks need to get over the gain line. He has been nominated for the IRB player of the year award.

11 — RICHARD KAHUI is usually a center, but has been an instant success on the left wing. He is solid in defense, looks for work in attack and has good positional sense.

10 — AARON CRUDEN has been thrust into the hotseat like no other player in the tournament. Drafted into the squad to replace injured star playmaker Dan Carter, he was thrown into the starting flyhalf role when Colin Slade also sustained a tournament-ending groin injury. The 22-year-old Cruden has settled in well, organizing the back line in knockout matches against Argentina and Australia and even landing a dropped goal in the semi-final.

9 — PIRI WEEPU has been the general of the back line since Dan Carter was ruled out, taking over kicking duties and directing the back division. He leads the haka and is second only to Richie McCaw in terms of leaders within the All Blacks group. He has re-established himself as the starting scrumhalf and, for the New Zealand public at least, has become the star of the tournament.

8 — KIERAN READ is a big, but athletic No. 8, who enjoys running with the ball and can also be inspirational in defense. He smashed Wallabies back rower Rocky Elsom at full pace in a copybook tackle that was among the enduring images of the semi-final win over Australia.

7 — RICHIE MCCAW has regained his status as the premier open-side flanker after outplaying Australia’s David Pocock in the semi-finals. A three-time world player of the year, McCaw has been slowed in training by persistent foot pain, but it has not impacted on his work rate or impact on the field. An inspirational leader, he is the most capped All Black of all time and is determined to be the first New Zealand captain since 1987 to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.

6 — JEROME KAINO has become an integral part of the All Blacks back row with Read and McCaw for his phenomenal work rate and brute strength. He shut down Australia’s best scoring chance in the semi-final by picking up strong-running Wallabies winger Digby Ioane from behind and heaving him back into the field of play.

5 — SAM WHITELOCK has worked his way into the starting lineup at the World Cup and has now started in eight of the last nine Tests after earning most of his caps off the bench last year. A reliable lineout target and solid in the set-piece, he is keeping Ali Williams on the bench. He turned 23 last week and is being groomed for the future.

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