Football Football
Horse Racing Horse Racing
Cricket Cricket
Basketball Basketball
Golf Golf

Peter Stringer: Scrum-halves will decide Rugby World Cup final

26 Oct | BY Peter Stringer | MIN READ TIME |
Peter Stringer: Scrum-halves will decide Rugby World Cup final

The Betway ambassador previews Saturday's showpiece, reflects on where it went wrong for Ireland and pays tribute to their departing stars.

Visit Betway for the latest sports betting odds.

We’ve got two contrasting styles in the final and I hope we get an entertaining match that keeps rugby on the global map in terms of the quality we’ve seen so far. 

Going into the tournament, I’d have probably predicted a South Africa v Ireland final with South Africa coming out on top, but I’ve been quietly impressed with the way New Zealand have gone about their work. 

It seems incredible to say about a team like New Zealand, but they’ve really slipped in under the radar. They looked rudderless against France in the opener and were written off but have completely changed things around.

Scrum-halves will be key

The pack will obviously dictate how a lot of the game will go, but the half-backs are key. The difference between a two-second ruck and a four-second ruck and what that means from an attacking point of view is huge. 

From a nine perspective, it’s so important to get the ball and keep moving forward. Whoever wins that breakdown battle will give the opportunity for the nines and 10s to play on the front foot at high tempo with the luxury of fast ball. 

On the back of what has been a really physical World Cup, New Zealand are probably going in slightly fresher, but the South African defence just doesn’t seem to tire. They just become more and more aggressive.

New Zealand are going to have to work really hard, but I’ve been impressed with how clinical they’ve been in attack. They didn’t have to work too hard for those scores against Ireland and, with the journey they’ve been on, I’m going to go for them to win by three or four points. 

Scoreboard pressure told for Ireland

The Ireland result is still massively disappointing. Knowing some of the guys, I think they fully believed they could go and win a World Cup and they certainly had that capability.

They played some really good rugby. I don’t think you can criticise any of their performances or facets of play. They just never got into the lead and the difference between being a couple of points behind or a couple of points ahead, sometimes that can skew your mindset.

It changes your whole mentality around certain decisions and makes you feel you need to do something different and force something to try and make those scores happen.

Coaches will allow players to get a feel for what’s happening on the field, and they clearly had full belief in their lineout and maul and what they could do off set-piece to score tries but, looking back on it now, maybe you knock over a couple of those points to get into the lead and put the pressure back on New Zealand to chase the game, rather than kicking to the corner.

What next for this group?

This is a rebuilding process now. It’s not going to be the same team going forward for the Six Nations. There are a couple of guys retiring, so there’s a little bit of rebuilding to do in key positions.

Whether Peter O’Mahony comes back, and they’ve got to find a replacement for Johnny Sexton. Jack Crowley is a really good guy, but he needs a couple of good seasons at Munster before he is considered that guaranteed starter for Ireland. 

This was a massive opportunity, and there are no guarantees going forward that they’ll be in that position again in four years’ time. Those new guys will have to go through a bit of a learning process, but the belief is there with this group after everything they’ve achieved.

Farewell to Johnny and Keith

Given the level that he’s got to for so long, Johnny has to be considered Ireland’s greatest 10. Right until the last minute of his last game, he was the guy taking the ball to the line and looking for those inside-outside options. 

He was written off three or four seasons ago and has just kept coming back time and again. It’s a mark of the guy that he had the ability to not just play his own game, but to carry others alongside him. 

He was able to bring the coach’s philosophy and gameplan and translate that onto the field, and anyone who’s played with him has talked about how he brought new standards into training camps and made players better just by being around him.

The same goes for Keith Earls. The kid was just phenomenal when he first came on the scene at Munster. A raw talent with skill, speed, footwork, work rate and understanding of the game. He saved Munster and Ireland so many times, not just with the tries he scored but also defensively, with tracking down and covering tackles when other people may have given up.

He came from a background in Limerick where a lot of guys probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity to play for Munster and Ireland and he just went and grabbed it with both hands. He’s a quality guy all round.

Play-off a game nobody wants to play

The third-place play-off is one of those games where I can’t help but wonder whether it should go ahead or not. I imagine myself in that situation where you’ve just lost a semi-final, and it must be so hard to get up for it.

But, once you get on the field, it’s another international and, as an international player, you can’t let your standards drop. You’ve got to focus your minds and get on with it.

Argentina have come out and said they’re going for it, but England have improved as the tournament has gone on and I’m expecting them to win by 12-15 points depending how their bodies are after that semi-final.

Peter Stringer

Peter Stringer

Irish rugby legend who played in two World Cups and made 98 appearances for his country in a decorated international career.

Peter Stringer

Peter Stringer

Irish rugby legend who played in two World Cups and made 98 appearances for his country in a decorated international career.