Australia v New Zealand: Teams and Prediction
BLEDISLOE FINALE: Newly-named All Blacks captain Ardie Savea said that his side had the mental resolve to push past its “challenging” preparation for the Bledisloe Cup finale.
The all-conquering New Zealand head into Sunday’s clash having already clinched the three-test series against Australia after victories in Auckland last month – first by 33-25, and then by a record 57-22.
But their chances of a clean sweep have been made more difficult with the All Blacks only allowed to venture out of their hotel for training sessions due to a Covid-19 outbreak back home.
“Bit different having to adjust to a soft quarantine life,” Savea told reporters ahead of the All Blacks’ final training session.
“I like to get fresh air and go for walks, not doing that has been weird.
“These are unique times. It’s challenging.”
Despite the unusual circumstances, Savea backed his short-handed team, missing a slew of stars, to remain focused and ready for a desperate Wallabies outfit.
“We need to stay mentally prepared,” he said.
“We just trust the lads with their preparation in the lead up and to be able to perform.”
The match, expected to have a bumper crowd of 60 000, was supposed to be played on August 28 but the All Blacks refused to travel until there was certainty around where the rest of the pandemic-hit Rugby Championship would be played.
It led to bickering between Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby, fuelling anticipation for the first daytime Bledisloe Cup clash in Australia in 25 years.
“They will come out firing and we just have to nullify that,” Savea said.
“We are prepared for anything.”
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The Wallabies have been out and about during their layoff in Covid-free Perth, including visiting local rugby union clubs.
They also received a pep talk from Australian cricket coach Justin Langer, who attended a training session.
Even though they start heavy underdogs, the Wallabies, strengthened by the inclusions of Samu Kerevi and Izack Rodda, have a quiet confidence with Perth being comfortable terrain for them over the years.
Notably, they thrashed the All Blacks 47-26 at Optus Stadium two years ago.
“That seems like a lifetime ago but it was a really strong performance where we put the foot on the gas,” Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said.
“Fast forward two years and we want to take that [approach] into the game and do damage.”
Even though the Bledisloe Cup has been decided, Sunday’s showdown doubles as round two of the Rugby Championship, which also features South Africa and Argentina.
That tournament will be played in Australia’s Queensland state.
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Players to watch:
For Australia: The inclusion of Samu Kerevi and Izack Rodda have been the talking point this week. Japan-based centre Kerevi and big lock Rodda will pull on a Wallabies jersey for the first time since the 2019 World Cup. Kerevi is back due to a relaxation of the so-called “Giteau’s Law”, which bars overseas-based players from representing Australia unless they have appeared in at least 60 Tests. Folau Fainga’a is another who would want to put in a big with this test being his first of 2021, the hooker joined in an-all Brumbies front row alongside James Slipper and Allan Alaalatoa.
For New Zealand: With captain Sam Whitelock, as well as veterans Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga, absent as they support pregnant partners, the leadership falls on Ardie Savea to lead the side. Smith’s place has been taken by Brad Weber ahead of the experienced TJ Perenara. Weber has been in fine form and has the perfect opportuntiy to finally stake a claim for the jersey. Beauden Barrett who returns to the starting side at flyhalf is another major threat. The No.10 is a game-changer and caused headaches to any defence.
Head to head:
@rugby365com: New Zealand to win by 10 points
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachie Swinton, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Nic White, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia
All Blacks: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Ardie Savea (captain), 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 George Bridge.
Date: Sunday, September 5
Venue: Optus Stadium, Perth
Kick-Off: 14.00 (06.00 GMT; 18.00 NZT)
Expected weather: Warm and sunny with a high of 22°C, low of 11°C
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Jordan Way (Australia) & Graham Cooper (Asutalia)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)