A former All Black has broken ranks by making Australia favourites for the World Cup final and giving No. 8 Kieran Read a serve.
Craig Dowd, the longtime test prop, said Australia are "the complete package" with an edge in loose forward speed, and suggested Read would have received a rocket from coach Steve Hansen this week.
"Much as it pains me to say it, Australia have to be the favourites...they are 1-1 with the All Blacks for the year, but they won the Rugby Championship and scored more competition points so that has to give them the favouritism," he wrote for ESPN's rugby website.
Dowd believed the All Blacks would run hard at Wallaby first five-eighths Bernard Foley to nullify his influence, and believed Ma'a Nonu and Julian Savea were critical to getting the All Blacks on the front foot.
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He had special praise for Jerome Kaino's overall form and Sam Whitelock's semifinal performance against South Africa, but Read was another matter.
"Kieran Read needs to stand up for the All Blacks," Dowd wrote.
"He's been quiet. He's made more errors than we are used to seeing from him, and he needs a big game.
"He just hasn't shown what we all know he is capable of. I'm sure and I hope Read's going to get the message this week."
Dowd believed the Wallabies had a speed advantage in the loose forwards, and were on a par elsewhere.
"We know there is going to be a real battle with the Australian loose forwards, and it is probably going to determine the outcome," he said.
"...(there are) two fairly evenly matched teams...and I think it is going to come down to who wants it more."