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Rugby World Cup 2011 Semi-final Preview – New Zealand vs Australia

The home nation and their big brother rivals; the internationally ranked number 1 and 2 teams; two of current world rugby’s greatest entertainers. However, when you look at the second semi-final of the Rugby World Cup, it should be an enthralling match.

New Zealand are the hosts, the world’s first-ranked team, and haven’t lost to Australia at Eden Park since 1986. They have a tremendously strong team led by last year’s world player of the year Richie McCaw and coach of the year Graham Henry. They are the only undefeated side in the Rugby World Cup 2011, and their smallest winning margin has been 20 points, during pool play against another semi-finalist team, France.

However; Australia defeated New Zealand last time the two teams met, two months ago, in the decider of the tri-nations tournament. Australia have by far the superior World Cup record, having won the trophy twice to New Zealand’s once, and having knocked the All Blacks out at the semi-final stage both times the two teams have met in the knockout rounds (in 1991 and 2003).

New Zealand are missing their star fly-half, Dan Carter, and their second choice, Colin Slade. Third man in Aaron Cruden played well against Argentina for 55 minutes, but this week will be a huge test for him. He has a week to think about being the starting fly-half, and that could count against him in the pressure stakes. On the other hand, he has Wellington team-mates all around him in the backline which should help him. Cruden has all the confidence of youth, is a strong runner and a creative spark, and threw some wonderful long passes last weekend. His defence will no doubt be tested by the Wallabies, and he will need Piri Weepu to have another huge game inside him to direct the All Blacks around the park and take the pressure off.

For Australia, Kurtley Beale has been named in the starting line-up but is a big doubt to play. Coach Robbie Deans will give him until the captain’s run on Saturday to prove his fitness.

Beale would be a huge loss at full-back; he is an exceptionally gifted broken field runner who can beat tacklers in almost any situation. He starts a lot of the breaks that the Australian backs are so ruthless at exploiting. With Quade Cooper misfiring against South Africa, it was Beale the Wallabies turned to for direction on attack; if he were to be ruled out, someone else would have to step up.

This is an unpredictable match; both teams fire up for these games time after time, and the World Cup semi-final will only add spice. The Wallaby pack struggled against South Africa last week, with the honourable and perhaps match-winning exception of David Pocock. New Zealand will be looking to exploit the same weaknesses but nullify Pocock’s work through the efforts of Richie McCaw and the rest of his loose forward companions.

If they can manage to gain the upper hand in the forwards and keep the pressure on Quade Cooper, they should take the game. On the other hand, Australia will try to exploit the uncertainty of New Zealand’s new fly-halves, and the pressure the All Blacks will no doubt be feeling, having not won a World Cup for 24 years. The side that feels the pressure most and makes the most mistakes will be lining up next Friday for the third place play-off.

Kick off: 9pm NZ time / 9pm GMT / 7pm Eastern Daylight Time (Australia) / 6pm Eastern Standard Time (Australia) / 4pm Western Standard Time (Australia).

Starting Line-Ups – New Zealand vs. Australia, Rugby World Cup 2011.

New Zealand Starting XV

  • 15 Israel Dagg
  • 14 Cory Jane
  • 13 Conrad Smith
  • 12 Ma’a Nonu
  • 11 Richard Kahui
  • 10 Aaron Cruden
  • 9 Piri Weepu
  • 1 Tony Woodcock
  • 2 Keven Mealamu
  • 3 Owen Franks
  • 4 Brad Thorn
  • 5 Sam Whitelock
  • 6 Jerome Kaino
  • 7 Richie McCaw (capt)
  • 8 Kieran Read


  • 16 Andrew Hore
  • 17 Ben Franks
  • 18 Ali Williams
  • 19 Victor Vito
  • 20 Andy Ellis
  • 21 Stephen Donald
  • 22 Sonny Bill Williams


Australia Starting XV

  • 15 Kurtley Beale
  • 14 James O’Connor
  • 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper
  • 12 Pat McCabe
  • 11 Digby Ioane
  • 10 Quade Cooper
  • 9 Will Genia
  • 1 Sekope Kepu
  • 2 Stephen Moore
  • 3 Ben Alexander
  • 4 Dan Vickerman
  • 5 James Horwill (capt)
  • 6 Rocky Elsom
  • 7 David Pocock
  • 8 Radike Samo


  • 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau
  • 17 James Slipper
  • 18 Rob Simmons
  • 19 Ben McCalman
  • 20 Luke Burgess
  • 21 Berrick Barnes
  • 22 Anthony Fainga’a


Match Officials

Referee: Craig Joubert (RSA)

Touch Judge: Nigel Owens (WAL)

Touch Judge: Romain Poite (FRA)

TV match official: Shaun Veldsman (RSA)

About Michael Gardner

Michael Gardner
Michael Gardner is at the Rugby World Cup 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand, providing first-hand coverage of the action on the pitch.

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