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Sports

New Zealand and Australia keep faith with players for final

media Richie McCaw is aiming to become the first man to skipper a side to consecutive World cup triumphs. Reuters/Paul Childs

Saturday's rugby World Cup final will pit antipodean rivals new Zealand against Australia. Both sides are unbeaten in the tournament and both nations are attempting to win the crown for a third time.

New Zealand's coaches named an unchanged team on Thursday for the rugby World Cup final on Saturday at Twickenham against Australia.

Both sides are seeking their third win since the inception of the competition in 1987. However New Zealand's All Blacks are attempting to become the first nation to retain the Webb Ellis trophy.

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw will lead his players in his 148th international and he said he and his teammates in the scrum must be ready for the battle of the breakdown.

Australia's Michael Hooper and David Pocock have been the star forwards of the competition.

Working with the gritty tackling of Scott Fardy, they have dominated play. Pocock has forced 14 turnovers, six more than New Zealand's most successful player Kieran Read.

The contest between Hooper, Pocock and Fardy against McCaw, Read and Jerome Kaino is considered by many analysts to be the zone where the cup will be won or lost.

McCaw, 34, said he was relishing the confrontation. "We've had some good challenges over the years. It's the type of game you want to be involved in.

 

"We realise we need to be on the job and limit their influence as much as possible. There's no doubt that if you allow the Wallabies to get a quick ball especially with that forward trio of Hooper, Pocock and Fardy, it can make your day a pretty tough one."

Australia have recalled prop Scott Sio in their only change to the team that beat Argentina 29-15 in last Saturday's semi-final.

The 24-year old has recovered from an elbow injury and replaces James Slipper.

Full-back Israel Folau, who has been nursing a swollen ankle since being substituted against Argentina, has been cleared to play. Veteran inside centre Matt Giteau, who hurt his groin in the same match, is also able to start.

With so much attention on Australia's scrum troika, Kaino said the All Blacks shouldn't concentrate solely on the forwards. "We know what's ahead and our focus is on what we need to do to hopefully dominate that breakdown area.

"They work quite well with each other and it's not just their loose forwards as a lot of their front rowers are strong over the ball. For us it's a focus on them as a team."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who has steered his side to 48 wins from 53 matches since taking over in 2012, added: "Australia have enough good players for us to be worried about all of them rather than just a couple so we would be very foolish if we just focused on two or three."

 

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