Saturday night sees the All Blacks and the Springboks collide for Rugby’s grandest prize, the Webb Ellis Cup.
In recent interviews with both the Head Coach Craig Hammond, and captain Nathan Tweedy, of Nottingham Rugby, both New Zealanders, the Nottingham Sport gained a couple of quick thoughts from the them about the tournament, and the final itself.
Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and England all took part in this year’s edition of the RWC in France, England losing out, heart-breakingly, to South Africa, in the semi-finals, whilst Ireland suffered similar when against New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
It’s just been one of those tournaments where the Home Nations were concerned, but for the traditional powerhouses, the weight of expectation now beckons; Ireland were among the favourites for the title and were unlucky, whilst England scraped their way to the final four, and were eventually unlucky as well.
CRAIG HAMMOND (Head Coach, Nottingham RFC)
“Ah, the Rugby World Cup, it has been class hasn’t it?
“Some of the really big games we’ve seen, France versus New Zealand, Ireland versus New Zealand, South Africa versus France, England versus Fiji; all of the quarter-finals were outstanding and I was chuffed how far England got.
“They were unlucky to lose against South Africa so a real credit to (Steve) Borthwick and his coaching team, who I know most off form Leicester. They’ve been amazing and put in a hell of a performance so I hope that they can go out and beat Argentina and finish third and leave England rugby in a good position going forward.
“The All Blacks against South Africa, what a final that will be. There’s two very different, contrasting styles with how they play. New Zealand playing fast and moving the ball, and their attacking threats, whilst South Africa drives straight at you with set-piece dominance and kicking the ball away before trying to get it back through putting pressure on you.
“So yes, completely different types of teams to play against each other so it’ll be really interesting to see how they go and, I think that New Zealand will pip it but it’ll be pretty tight. It depends if South Africa squeezes and plays their power game, a set-piece game and rattle New Zealand and don’t let them play.
“It’ll be pretty tight, but if New Zealand start really fast as they have been doing and score a couple of tries as they have been doing it then they’ve nothing really to lose. They’re changing their coaching team, a lot of players are retiring so I think they’re in a position where they can go and play it and enjoy so I think it’ll be a bloody game to watch and enjoy.”
Scotland were unable to progress from a group stage that saw them pitted against Ireland (1), South Africa (2), Tonga (4) and Romania (5), the Scots winning two of their four outings to finish in the middle of the pack.
Wales topped a group which consisted of Fiji (2), Australia (3), Portugal (4) and Georgia (5), the Wallabies sent packing very much to the delight of many elsewhere; the Welsh won four-from-four before falling 29-17 to the gutsy Pumas of Argentina in the quarter-finals.
Ireland topped the group which also had Scotland in, also winning four-from-four, and were narrowly beaten 28-24 by the All Blacks in a classic, quarter-final dance between two of the pre-tournament favourites.
England meanwhile, in the last of the groups, also won their four matches and finished ahead of Argentina (2), Japan (3), Samoa (4), and Chile (5); they then defeated Fiji 30-24 in the quarters before, agonisingly, losing out 16-15 to South Africa, in the semis – they’ll play Argentina in the third place match.
NATHAN TWEEDY (Captain, Nottingham RFC)
“I’ve tried to watch as much as I can, loved watching it and managed to get over to France for the quarter-final against Ireland (New Zealand won 28-24, Stade de France, 14 October); Ireland were unlucky and so good for long periods so you can feel for them, and the French really.
“England, they were outstanding against South Africa (in the semi-final, before losing in the closing minutes), and we know that, facing the Springboks in the final, they’ll know every trick in the book.
“Us (the All Blacks) though, I don’t care what happens so long as we win it (the Rugby World Cup), but it’ll be a really close game, that’s for sure.”
Both nations are aiming for what would be a fourth, RWC success, the Springboks having won the competition in 1995, 2007 and 2019, whilst the All Blacks were winners in 1987, 2011 and 2015, they perhaps looking for ‘revenge’ maybe, for the loss to the Springboks, 15-12 AET, in Johannesburg, South Africa, back in June 1995.
South Africa won three of their four group matches before seeing off France 29-28 in the quarters, and England 16-15 in the semis; New Zealand meanwhile also won three of their four group games then defeated Ireland 28-24 in the quarters, and Argentina 44-6 in the semis, to book their place in the final for the famed, stunning, Webb Ellis Cup.
Teams for the 2023 Rugby World Cup final, at the Stade de France, Saint Denis, are as follows:
New Zealand – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown
South Africa – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Jasper Wiese, 23 Willie le Roux
Additional information – Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 BST, 19:00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England); Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Matthew Carley (England); TMO: Tom Foley (England).
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @NottinghamRugby South Africa take on New Zealand at the Stade de France.