Tough and tight but NZ will win
Only South Africa have defeated New Zealand by scoring fewer tries since the last tournament and it seems that New Zealand are set to end their Webb Ellis heartbreak, but it may be harder than some might envisage.
Geoffrey Riddle's had a very successful tipping tournament with 30 wins from 46 bets - will his World Cup final preview add any more to his tally?
If anyone thinks that New Zealand are feeling the pressure ahead of their clash with France on Sunday consider the fact that last week they inflicted Australia's heaviest World Cup defeat to reach the final for the first time in 16 years.
Graham Henry's side came out of the blocks in the semi-final to deliver the perfect opening 15 minutes. They pulled the Wallabies' defence entirely out of shape, and targeted David Pocock, the openside flanker, with waves of ball-carriers that dragged him into the action. It made him unavailable for the crucial points of attack where he could not generate turnover ball and Ma'a Nonu's game-breaking try proved the difference.
Once the All Blacks had grabbed a healthy lead, they changed focus and utilised their powerful pack and kickers to hold their trans-Tasman rivals at bay. It worked, and save for a huge, leg-pumping run by Digby Ioane, Australia never threatened the whitewash.
It is the latter approach that should worry all supporters of Les Bleus as it showed a more flinty angle to the champions-elect that has not been a regular feature in their recent play. New Zealand are capable of playing a tight game, and last week's strategy is likely to be the template once again.
Of the 15 matches that New Zealand have lost under Henry, they were winning at half-time in only three of them. In nine of those 15 defeats, the All Blacks failed to score the first match try.
The last time France beat New Zealand was in Wellington in 2009. Dan Carter was not playing and the visitors led 8-0 at half-time. Interestingly, the visitors missed three drop goals and four penalty attempts for a 14-10 victory. They made 50 per cent more tackles than New Zealand with Thierry Dusatoir and Fulgence Ouedraogo putting in a heroic effort in defence.
It is clear therefore that Marc Lievremont's side are going to have to come charging out of the blocks in the opening stanza, much like they did in their 37-17 defeat to New Zealand during the pool stages.
France's play was remarkably varied for all of ten minutes of that encounter, which illustrates that when they put their mind to it, they have the game to frustrate New Zealand.
They need their captain to tackle New Zealand to a standstill, alongside Imanol Harinordoquy and Julien Bonnaire, while France's kickers must continue to be amongst the most accurate in the tournament at goal. If Aurelien Rougerie's sweeping kicks from hand, and Dimitri Yachvili's box kicks can keep New Zealand hemmed in their own half, France will have a chance.
A lot has been written about the decision to play Parra at fly half, but no one credits Leivremont with having taken the decision after Ireland beat Australia. That fixture opened up the draw, pushing France into the Six Nations half with the ultimate reward a place in the final against the hosts. No team is going to play fast and loose and beat New Zealand. Is it possible that Lievremont was so shrewd, deciding then to play a tight game through to the final?
If France are going to win, they are only going to do so half-time/full-time which may bring their price of [20.0] in the double result market into focus as insurance for some punters.
It is all so unlikely, however. Australia failed to cross the tryline of the All Blacks, who have led at the break in their last 14 fixtures at home. Only South Africa have defeated New Zealand by scoring fewer tries since the last tournament and it seems that New Zealand are set to end their Webb Ellis heartbreak, but it may be harder than some might envisage.
Recommended Bets (1-5pt staking plan)
1pt Back New Zealand to win by under 12.5 points @ [3.95]
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