Rugby | Paper war ahead of RWC Final

Richie McCaw (AP)

Sydney – In the Sydney Telegraph tabloid this week the skipper of New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team is depicted as a giant grub, his battered head and black jersey photoshopped onto a long, slimy, sickly white body.

Richie McCaw, who enjoys God-like status in a country where rugby is virtually a religion, is the target of jibes and smears in the Australian media accusing the veteran flanker of tricky cheating and getting away with it for years from fearful referees.

“Bugging Australia for years with his grubby interpretation of rugby’s rules” screamed the headline about the veteran All Black captain once it was clear Australia’s Wallabies would be facing New Zealand’s in the Rugby World Cup final in London on Saturday.

It’s a typical Australian backhanded compliment, part of the love-hate relationship that has existed for more than a hundred years between the former British colonies of Australia and New Zealand.

Australians like to say it’s like big brother and little brother, frequently brawling but backing each other up when the chips are down, fighting side by side in war.

New Zealanders perceive that attitude as patronizing. Which it is. And like all little brothers, they resent it mightily.

“Are we Ireland to their UK, the Canada to their United States?” asked New Zealand’s The Press Wednesday, pointing out their Lord of the Rings films were more successful than anything Australia has done, and that New Zealand’s mountains were higher than Australia’s.

This explains why Kiwis in New Zealand and those living in Australia – which amounts to about a quarter of the New Zealand population – are united in praying their mighty All Blacks, the number one rugby team in the world for a very long time, not only to beat the Wallabies at Twickenham on Saturday, but absolutely thrash them.

As one New Zealand paper pointed out Wednesday, the two teams have played each other 154 times and the All Blacks have won 105 of them. Australian has scored a total 2,143 points against New Zealand – New Zealand has scored 3,126. Both teams have won the World Cup twice, but New Zealand are holders after their 2011 triumph.

“They’re cocky and abusive,” wrote New Zealand rugby writer Duncan Johnstone of the Australians. “And that’s just their media.” The team, he wrote, is full of “Aussie arrogance and swagger”.

No matter which team wins Saturday, like brawling brothers the fight between Aussies and Kiwis will go on long after the final whistle.

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