The All Blacks had no response and you have to tip your hat to Eddie Jones’ men. They won it. New Zealand didn’t lose it.
The rugby people over here in England are a bit concerned about whether they can get up again and climb Everest twice in seven days.
The other semifinal was a dour affair. I was gobsmacked by the amount of kicking and it wasn’t always of the highest quality. But South Africa did just enough to beat Wales and reach the big dance.
The Boks will be muscular and possibly quite predictable, but that won’t make them easier to beat in Yokohama on Saturday night.
That said, I think England should beat the Springboks as they are the better team. They played well in their last pool game against Argentina, they played well in the 40-16 quarter-final win over Australia and superbly well to lower the All Blacks. Have they got one more big effort in them, which would make a quartet of Sanzaar scalps in their last four outings? Win the final and they will more than deserve to claim their second Rugby World Cup crown.
I’ll go England by 9-12.
*I know those bronze finals are never the games that you really look forward to playing.
It’s difficult to get up for mentally. I remember in 1991 we beat Scotland 13-6 and Walter Little had a blinder.
Having said that, there is a bit more motivation for the All Blacks this time. They haven’t lost to Wales in 66 years. We won’t want that streak to end and, more importantly, perhaps, it’s the last chapter in the Kieran Read-Steve Hansen era and their All Blacks’ journeys.
I admire the skipper hugely for what he’s done for New Zealand rugby through his play, his leadership and how he carries himself.
Hansen has been immense as head coach since 2012 and back to 2004 with his first involvement in this team. Even if we win this by one point, I’ll be happy to see those two, in particular, go out on a high. I wouldn’t like to see them suffer defeats in their last two Test matches.
Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty and probably Sonny Bill Williams will also all be wearing the black jersey for the last time, so they’ll be primed for big performances.
Rieko Ioane is back in the side and he possibly needs a big display to springboard into the 2020 season. But he’s a young man and lost his place to a classy player like George Bridge. Let’s celebrate the fact that we have three young, fine wings.
Warren Gatland will also be leaving Wales after 12 years and I know he’ll be desperate to take an All Blacks scalp with him. He’s been a great servant for Wales and the British and Irish Lions. He’s given this team belief and they have won three Grand Slams, including this year. I think Wales has lost only one big game, narrowly, in the last 18 months. But they do have injuries and he’s been forced to make several changes, so they will certainly be underdogs tonight.
I think the All Blacks, despite all that, will win well by 15-18 points.