SYDNEY, October 28- Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has risked the wrath of Australia by tipping an All Blacks victory in Saturday’s World Cup final, but he expects a tight game.
Jones, who led Australia to a heart-breaking defeat in the 2003 World Cup final against England and steered Japan to a shock win over South Africa at this year’s tournament, said the All Blacks were simply too good.
“If you just look at the stats, then they are (the best ever),” he told Australian Associated Press.
“Their Test match record is so good; no other team in the sporting world — not just rugby — have a record like them.
“So if you just look at that, they’re certainly right up there with the best of them.”
When in charge of the Wallabies, Jones pulled off a major World Cup upset by orchestrating the semi-final defeat of arch-rivals New Zealand in 2003.
But having analysed both team’s victories last weekend, he sees a fairytale end for the retiring Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and a handful of other New Zealand veterans.
“I think New Zealand will make it home in less than five points — it will be close,” he said.
“New Zealand played against a South Africa team that played their best 40 minutes in the first half. To win that game to me was very impressive. They really stuck it out and showed belief in their own game.
“It was a very good performance.”
Jones said Australia on Sunday kept inviting Argentina back into the game.
“They were a little bit loose and gave the Argentinians a chance,” he said.
“It was still a very good win by the Australians. Both teams will go into the final full of confidence. There’s not much between them.”
Former Wallaby skipper John Eales, one of a select group to have won the World Cup twice, in 1991 and 1999, agreed it will be tight and said the key for Australia was to keep their focus.
“It’s a week of a lot of emotions. At the end of this week you’re either going to be world champions or you’re not — one road is good and the other isn’t,” he said on Fox Sports.
“You have a lot of anxiety and how do you deal with that stress? How do you sleep?
“They can’t dwell on it, they can’t relax because they got through. They’ve got to maintain the rage and just focus on what it’s going to take (to win).”
Fellow former skipper Stirling Mortlock said the odds being stacked against the Wallabies would give them a mental advantage.
“Australians are best when we’re underdogs, when our backs are against the wall,” he told reporters.
“We are the underdogs and we need to play a lot better to go toe-to-toe with the All Blacks.”