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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Aussies driven by fear of failure

Australia's Craig Fitzgibbon says the World Cup favourites are being driven by an acute fear of failure ahead of Saturday's final against New Zealand.

The reigning champions have cruised through the tournament so far with ominous-looking form, but Fitzgibbon insists the result is not a formality.

"Every time you play for Australia, you're defending something," he said.

"Obviously you have that stigma. You don't want to be the team that loses. We did in 2005 and it hurt a lot."

Second-row forward Fitzgibbon is one of four survivors in the current Australia squad who played in the 2005 Tri-Nations Series final when the Kiwis stunned the sport with a 24-0 triumph.

And the 31-year-old Sydney Roosters veteran insists the scars have yet to heal.

"They didn't let us forget it in a hurry and we don't want to be that team again," he said.

"It [Saturday's final] is a big deal. I was part of that 2005 Tri-Nations team that was beaten. Certainly it will never be forgotten if we go out at the weekend and don't play well."

Australia have held the World Cup since 1975 and Fitzgibbon says the level of expectation is weighing heavily on the shoulders of the players.

"It's a big task, New Zealand have gradually improved throughout the tournament," he said.

"Every time you play in the green and gold there is a standard that you have to uphold. The players that have played over the last 100 years for Australia have set that standard and they've set it really high.

"We've got to be on our toes."

Both sides have named unchanged line-ups for Saturday's final at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium. Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney has kept Thomas Leuluai at hooker, after switching him there from scrum-half for the semi-final, with Nathan Fien continuing at number seven.

Wigan scrum-half Leuluai insists he is happy to play out of position if it helps New Zealand pull off a shock, even if the 23-year-old has been a half-back virtually his whole career.

"It's alright," he said. "I played a bit of it (at hooker) towards the end of last season.

"It takes a while to get use to, I suppose, especially the fitness side of things. But I don't mind. I've always enjoyed playing a bit of hooker."

New Zealand suffered an opening 30-6 defeat by Australia, who have run up 180 points and conceded just 16 in reaching the final.

"You've got to do all the little things right first to beat them," added Leuluai.

"There is no doubt it's going to be hard. The boys have to keep their discipline and have a good crack."

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