Australia just loves playing New Zealand in World Cup Finals -- and this will be the THIRD this year -- cricket, netball and now rugby.
In the long tradition of the ANZAC, Australia and New Zealand have enjoyed and endured great battles on the sporting field, yet -- surprisingly -- this will be the first time these two great rivals have met in the final of the pinnacle of their sport.
It's the one true friendly rivalry that perhaps only has its equivalent, at its most basic level, in a backyard contest between siblings -- fiercely competitive but never corrosive.
The Wallabies and the All Blacks will meet this weekend in a battle to see which team reigns supreme at the World Cup and which will take home William Webb-Ellis -- a prospect that whets the appetite of every rugby fan, but especially of every Kiwi and Aussie with a pulse.
The intertwining of camaraderie and rivalry is perhaps no better displayed than in a video message sent to the Wallabies by Australian soldiers on duty in Iraq, voicing messages of support and then adding that they are stationed there with a squadron of Kiwi soldiers.
"We're holed up here with a whole bunch of Kiwis," one corporal said. "So if you could just do us a solid and put it to them on Saturday that'd be really handy. Cheers!"
What more can you say about a group of men who want to 'beat' those they would defend with their lives?
This special match will be the final game at a World Cup for several players who will go down in rugby history as being among the champions of the sport. It is also a contest to see which team moves ahead as the winner of the most World Cups, as both these teams have won two each.
I'll be up in the small hours of Sunday morning here in Australia -- and for all the complaining about scheduling and consideration of time zones -- there's something that adds that extra edge to getting up in the dark to watch a great sporting contest.
We Aussies are used to it -- the Ashes, Wimbledon -- we've done it all before and we'll do it all again!
The beauty of sport is the stories that unfold and there are many in this great contest. Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell were pulled home from France with an ARU rule change, orchestrated by Michael Cheika, enabling overseas based Australian players to be eligible for national representation.
Adam Ashley-Cooper is sublimely talented and a stalwart of the Wallabies side. He's been to three World Cups now and this, his last, will be his first final. He's determined to make the most of it.
And let's not forget Stephen Moore, with that well-known shiny but well-scarred chrome dome, who has served his nation well as captain.
On the NZ side of the equation, rugby veteran and one of the greatest players of all time is the All Blacks' long-serving captain Richie McCaw -- still being coy about his future when all the talk in the lead up has been about his last All Blacks campaign. The man embodies leadership and team work in a way that can only be admired.
Alongside McCaw, another who will go down in the history books for his remarkable talent is Dan Carter. He is also playing his last Test for the All Blacks and is determined to make it special as he missed out on the 2011 World Cup due to a last minute training injury, which the All Blacks won on home soil. (And while I know I shouldn't say this, no one has the right to play hard rugby for so many years and still be so good looking.)
This final is set to be one of the best for several reasons. These two teams are well matched in terms of talent and ability. They have each shown an intense will to win in their performances leading to this weekend and, last but by no means least, there is a huge healthy respect and kinship between the players. This should produce a contest that will yield no ground in its intensity, but will give fans a game to remember.
And I for one cannot wait.Suggest a correction