Yes we can: All Blacks gear for Wallabies

Richie McCaw and the All Blacks are carrying the hopes of a nation ... and they won't let us down. Photo / Getty Images
Richie McCaw and the All Blacks are carrying the hopes of a nation ... and they won't let us down. Photo / Getty Images

It may be a semifinal on paper, but for New Zealanders, Australians and most rugby lovers around the world, tomorrow night's clash at Eden Park is the real Rugby World Cup final.

The winner still has to get past France or Wales, who play tonight in the first semifinal.

But the All Blacks and the Wallabies are the two top teams and were tipped to meet in the final.

Australia's upset 6-15 loss to Ireland in pool play turned the tournament upside down, putting the transtasman rivals on the same side of the draw.

And this week, senior Wallabies and their supporters have played on the fears of nervous New Zealanders, reminding us of past All Black failures and a woeful World Cup record.

They reckon all the pressure is on the All Blacks, who carry the weight of the nation's expectations on their shoulders.

And history shows New Zealand have never won a World Cup match against the Ockers, losing semifinals in 1991 and 2003.

George Gregan's "four more years" taunt from the last game still burns in All Black supporters' ears.

New Zealand supporters know everything is not going to plan. Aaron Cruden, who was skateboarding in Palmerston North two weeks ago, is running the ship in the previously unthinkable absence of Dan Carter.

And Richie McCaw, our talismanic captain, is running on a crocked foot.

Despite all this, the All Blacks, from coach Graham Henry down,exude a quiet confidence.

Never mind the injury toll that has culled Carter, Colin Slade and Mils Muliaina. Forget the cup curse.

The big match is at Eden Park, a fortress where the Wallabies have not won in 12 attempts since 1986 and the All Blacks are unbeaten since 1994.

Don't worry about Cruden, think about Quade Cooper. "Public Enemy Number One" is in ordinary form and crumbles under pressure, a confidence trickster who will be targeted by a hungry All Black pack.

It's unlikely they've forgotten his cheap shot on McCaw in the 20-25 Bledisloe loss in Brisbane.

Or the shameful memory of being dominated by a powder-puff Australian pack until halftime of that match.

We won't be ambushed by Robbie "Dingo" Deans twice.

Of course, there are nerves. It's a semifinal on the biggest world rugby stage - a 60,000 sell-out with millions watching on television screens around the world.

But the chorus of All Black believers is growing louder.

Former All Black greats such as Sir Colin Meads, John Kirwan and David Kirk say the team have the firepower.

And Tana Umaga, McCaw's predecessor as captain, writes in today's RugbyHerald that the tournament favourites have the "physical artillery to take this semifinal".

You'd expect former All Blacks to say that, but they have some interesting company from across the Ditch.

Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones says "unfortunately" New Zealand will win, and wonder wing David Campese says Eden Park is too much to overcome.

"The last time Australia won there was when I played in 1986, so that's a big hoodoo."

Can the All Blacks deliver a much-yearned-for victory? Yes we can.

- NZ Herald

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