AS the Wallabies prepare for battle with Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in the early hours of tomorrow morning for rugby’s biggest prize, Leader rugby writer Samantha Newsam canvassed the thoughts of some of our local Wallabies.
Barraba’s Tom Bowman was part of the triumphant 1999 side and is confident the Wallabies can become the first side to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup (universally known as “Bill”) for the third time.
There won’t be much in it though – only one or three points, Bowman adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if it went to extra time.
Their 23-point win over France was a bit of an aberration when it comes to the big one. The 1995 and 2003 finals were decided in extra time by a drop goal and there was only a point in it four years ago.
“We were lucky. We just blew France out of the water,” Bowman recalled.
Many comparisons have been made between this year’s and the 1999 side. One of those has been their defence.
“Our defence in ’99 took it to a new level in that era,” he said.
“Nathan Grey has done a fantastic job with the defence and that will come to fruition in the final.”
He isn’t predicting a lot of kicking from the Wallabies and spoke about needing to starve the All Blacks of the ball.
“We’ve just got to hold the ball for long periods,” he said.
“Whoever keeps the ball for the longest will win.”
Much has been made of the “Pooper” combination (David Pocock and Michael Hooper) and, led by them and fellow backrow amigo Scott Fardy, the Wallabies’ ability to dictate the breakdown will be a big factor.
They are the key men for Bowman, along with five-eighth Bernard Foley and his decision making as five-eighth.
“He’s got to run the show,” Bowman said.
Former number eight Tim Gavin also feels he is the Wallabies’ key man, along with halves partner Will Genia.
“If they can settle all game, the rest of the guys can do their job,” Gavin said.
The Gunnedah farmer famously missed the 1991 triumph against England through injury.
At the time, he was regarded as the premier number eight in the world and said, to win, the Wallabies simply can’t “make any mistakes”.
“Obviously you’ve got to be at your best and a little bit above to beat them,” he said.
“There will be times when you’re under the pump. You’ve got to find that something extra you haven’t had.
“I think this team is quite capable of doing that.”
He is anticipating a tight tussle, predicting the Wallabies to get home by five.
Barraba’s Bill McKid is of a similar mindset.
The man affectionately known as “Billy The Kid” didn’t get to play in a World Cup but did taste success over the All Blacks and believes the Wallabies can get the job done.
“Our guys need to rise to the occasion and can do it,” he said.
“They’ve (Wallabies) got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“They weren’t expected to get there.”
That’s not the case for their opposition.
“The Kiwis are under a lot more pressure,” he said.
“They won’t be able to go home if they don’t win.”
Granted, the Wallabies have had a bit of luck but have, he said, really come out of themselves and revelled in the occasion.
One of the keys in his view is the weather.
“If it’s a wet game it will be very hard for us,” he said.
“It’s a psychological advantage to them whenever we play in the wet.
“We go better when it’s fine weather and no rain.”
Like Bowman and Gavin, Pocock, Hooper and Foley are his key men.
Pocock and Hooper are “two outstanding scavengers” while Foley has really come to the fore at five-eighth and with his goalkicking.
“He’s also got good defence and attacking skills,” he said.
So what about who the Wallabies have to shut down?
“The number 15 (Ben Smith) is a fantastic player and the captain (Richie McCaw) – he’s a freak,” McKid said.
They also have a great pack.
For Bowman, winger Julian Savea and centres Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith are the dangermen.
Gavin can’t go past five-eighth Dan Carter in what will be his All Blacks swansong.
“If he has a really good game he’ll be very dangerous,” he said.
“He obviously controls the whole show.”