All Blacks team unchanged for final

12:41 pm on 30 October 2015

The All Blacks have named an unchanged 23 for the Rugby World Cup final against Australia at Twickenham on Sunday morning.

Prop Joe Moody during the All Blacks v France quarter-final.

Prop Joe Moody during the All Blacks v France quarter-final. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

While their World Cup-winning campaign four years ago was plagued by injuries to key players, the All Blacks have been blessed with stability in the side this time around.

Only one member of the 31-man All Blacks squad was unavailable for selection for the side's biggest game in four years, with loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett ruled out just hours before the team was named.

Crockett was due to be on the bench before re-aggravating the groin injury that kept him out of last week's semi-final, meaning Ben Franks keeps his spot in the reserves behind Joe Moody.

The relative fitness of the squad is in contrast to 2011 when three players were replaced throughout the competition, Aaron Cruden went down in the final and captain Richie McCaw played through with a broken foot.

The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Rugby World Cup 2015.

The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Rugby World Cup 2015. Photo: Getty Images

Coach Steve Hansen said it had made things a lot easier.

"We wanted to get some stability and we've worked towards that over the last four years," Hansen said.

"We've looked to bring players in when we've needed to and then when we came to this tournament we wanted to get here pretty solid on our selections.

"So we've been fortunate enough to be able to do that because the medical crew and the players, have worked hard in their recovery and we haven't had many injuries."

The All Blacks were also blessed with experience, with more than 1300 combined test caps in the match-day squad and seven players from the 2011 final win over France in Auckland in the starting 15.

No.8 Kieran Read said they had learned from that experience and did not want to be over-awed by the occasion.

"You look back on the 2011 final and there's things you pick up from it," Read told reporters.

"It's an all or nothing game which perhaps can lead to a bit more pressure and you play within yourselves.

"We can't let that happen, we'll go out there and express ourselves and play the type of rugby that we want to, the All Black brand."

For five of the returning players from 2011, the final could be a fitting send-off as they look to finish their careers in style.

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Photo: AFP

The most experienced of them all, McCaw, is widely expected to retire after the final, but he continues to deflect questions about his playing future - though he's not been included in his Crusaders Super Rugby squad for next season's expanded 18-team competition.

McCaw said his entire focus was on this match and stopping Australia's much talked about loose forwards David Pocock and Michael Hooper.

"We realise that we need to be on the job and limit their influence as much as possible and hopefully our back row can impose themselves," McCaw said.

"There's no doubt if you let Australia get quick ball and front foot ball, a loose forward trio with those two in it can make your day a pretty tough one."

Meanwhile, loosehead prop Scott Sio returns to the Wallabies starting lineup for Sunday morning's Cup final, having recovered from an elbow injury.

Sio, one of the key players in the Australian scrum, missed last weekend's semi-final win over Argentina after hurting his elbow a week earlier against Scotland.

Wallabies prop Scott Sio

Wallabies prop Scott Sio Photo: PHOTOSPORT

But in a major boost to the Wallabies' winning chances, Sio has been cleared to make his return for the final at Twickenham in the only change to the starting side that beat the Pumas 29-15.

Fullback Israel Folau, who has been battling an ankle injury and only lasted an hour against Argentina, was also cleared to play, as was veteran inside centre Matt Giteau, who injured his groin in the match against the Pumas.

Teams:

New Zealand: 1-Joe Moody, 2-Dane Coles, 3-Owen Franks, 4-Brodie Retallick, 5-Sam Whitelock, 6-Jerome Kaino, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 8-Kieran Read; 9-Aaron Smith, 10-Dan Carter, 11-Julian Savea, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 13-Conrad Smith, 14-Nehe Milner-Skudder, 15-Ben Smith

Replacements: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Ben Franks, 18-Charlie Faumuina, 19-Victor Vito, 20-Sam Cane, 21-Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22-Beauden Barrett, 23-Sonny Bill Williams

Australia: 1-Scott Sio, 2-Stephen Moore (captain), 3-Sekope Kepu, 4-Kane Douglas, 5-Rob Simmons, 6-Scott Fardy, 7-Michael Hooper, 8-David Pocock; 9-Will Genia, 10-Bernard Foley, 11-Drew Mitchell, 12-Matt Giteau, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 15-Israel Folau

Replacements: 16-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17-James Slipper, 18-Greg Holmes, 19-Dean Mumm, 20-Ben McCalman, 21-Nick Phipps, 22-Matt Toomua, 23-Kurtley Beale

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).

- AAP, Reuters