Match preview: Rugby Championship winners Australia head to New Zealand for Bledisloe Cup crunch match
After winning the Rugby Championship last weekend, Australia has an opening to win their first Bledisloe Cup since 2002 when they face the All Blacks once again tomorrow at Eden Park.
The Wallabies managed to overcome the All Blacks in Sydney but travel to take on New Zealand, who have not lost back-to-back games since 2011, for a second time as underdogs.
New Zealand furthermore has not lost at Eden Park since France only just defeated them in 1994. Going further back Australia have not tasted victory in Auckland since 1986, which is 29 painful year’s ago.
Kiwi Captain Richie McCaw will become international rugby’s most-capped Test player when he takes to the field as the 34-year old make his 142nd Test appearance, overtaking the milestone set by Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll.
Steve Hansen has made three changes following last week’s defeat as powerful centre Ma’a Nonu returns for the injured Sonny Bill Williams while Sam Whitelock and Victor Vito come in for Luke Ramano and Jerome Kaino respectively.
Michael Cheika, on the other hand, has looked to freshen up his starting XV with six changes from last weekend’s memorable victory.
Kiwi-born and enigmatic fly-half Quade Cooper returns along with Matt Toomua to replace Bernard Foley and Matt Giteau at ten and twelve while giant Will Skelton switches with Dean Mumm to start with James Horwill in the second-row.
Following his heroics off the bench last week Nic White has received a starting spot while Henry Speight, as well as Wycliff Palu, have also been named in the run-on side for the first time this year.
Australia have the tougher Pool at next month’s World Cup as they kick off their campaign against Fiji before facing Uruguay, England, and Wales in a highly competitive Pool A.
While New Zealand’s place in the knockout rounds, however, appears more assured as they start off with a tough match against Argentina before easier games against Namibia, Georgia and Tonga.
The Wallabies may have got the better of a flat-footed New Zealand last weekend, but I doubt they can pull off the same trick twice. There’s an abundance of angles that point the finger at an All Blacks to win here, and a comprehensive one at that.
New Zealand by 15
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Victor Vito, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Kane Douglas, 21 David Pocock, 22 Matt Giteau, 23 Kurtley Beale.