Rugby | Defence key to World Cup victory

David Pocock (Gallo)

London – For all the flair and attacking instincts that Australia and New Zealand have, the Wallabies believe defence is still looming as the decisive factor in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final.

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Both teams may well embrace the running game and boast players who can score tries from anywhere but if the tradition of previous World Cup finals is followed, the title is more likely to be decided by tackling.

“It’s an important part of the game,” Australian loose forward David Pocock told reporters on Tuesday.

“We’ve seen how tight a lot of the games have been. I think at the moment it’s pretty important to get the balance between the two (attack and defence).”

Statistically, New Zealand have been the best team in the tournament, scoring 36 tries and conceding four. Australia are second best in both categories, scoring 26 touchdowns while giving up five, though they had a much tougher run to the final that the All Blacks. Neither side conceded a try in last weekend’s semi-finals.

Although Australia may have conceded one more try than New Zealand, the Wallabies produced arguably the most impressive defensive display of the competition when they held out Wales in their match after being reduced to 13 men.

“The guys have been impressive throughout the tournament,” Australia’s defence coach Nathan Grey said.

“They’ve been very consistent with the way they’ve been defending. They should take confidence out of it.”

Grey is one of two members of the Australian coaching set-up who won the 1999 World Cup in a side which conceded one try all tournament.

Stephen Larkham, who was flyhalf for the Wallabies that won in 1999 and finished runners-up in 2003, is now the backs coach.

Larkham is primarily in charge of the attack but agrees that defence could be the more important factor.

“I guess this tournament has been a little up and down in terms of attack and defence,” Larkham said. “So I want to make sure the whole team performance is good and I thought it was on the weekend (against Argentina).

“We scored a couple of good tries but I think defence is going to be the key.”

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