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Australia v New Zealand - Teams and Prediction

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND THREE: The All Blacks are well on their way to retaining the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship title on Saturday.

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New Zealand face the struggling Australian side at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the final round of the Rugby Championship season.

Ian Foster’s men need just one more win or a draw to ensure they lift the trophy after impressive victories over Argentina (41-12) and World Champs South Africa (35-20).

Aside from the Rugby Champs, the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup is also on the line.

For New Zealand, Saturday could amplify their southern hemisphere domination.

However, it’s a perfect chance for Australia to get a much-needed moral boosting win to overturn their fortunes.

Australia haven’t got their hands on the Bledisloe silverware since 2002 – when Eddie Jones was last in charge – and few expect that to change.

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The Wallabies would need not only victory in Melbourne but also at Dunedin next month to claim the spoils.

And they would need a significant change in form. Australia are still chasing their first victory of the 2023 Rugby Championship, after defeats against the Springboks and Pumas.

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Jones has made seven changes after being embarrassed at home 31-34 by Argentina and is gambling on a young and relatively inexperienced starting side to handle the pressure at a stadium neither team has experienced before.

Notably, rookie Carter Gordon has been thrown in at the deep end as a playmaker alongside scrumhalf Tate McDermott with Quade Cooper and Nic White on the bench.

With a few months to go before the September-October World Cup in France, Jones acknowledged his team had been widely written off, but insisted they were a work in progress.

“I’m still getting to know the players and the players are still getting to know me. We needed to find out where the best balance of the team is but just watching the team train I liked the look of it,” he said.

“There’s not too many people outside our group that thinks we can win the game but there’s 85,000 people that might be in for a shock.”

Wallabies co-skipper James Slipper sounded slightly less confident on an unusual Friday where neither team was able to get a feel for the cavernous MCG on the traditional captain’s run.

A blockbuster Australian Rules match at the venue between Collingwood and Carlton meant it was off-limits.

Slipper admitted, “the odds don’t really stack up when you’ve lost 20 [Bledisloe Cups] in a row”.

He added: “We know what’s in front of us, we’re going to have to put in one hell of a shift to get a result.”

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‘Adapt fast’

Ardie Savea, New Zealand’s skipper in place of the injured Sam Cane, on Friday admitted they were wary of the new-look Wallabies.

“We have that in the back of our mind, we know they are going to come out firing and we know they can throw something at us that we haven’t seen before,” he said.

“The great challenge for us is having to adapt fast to the game and that’s something that we’ve talked about.”

Savea said his team had room for improvement despite commanding performances in the first two rounds.

“We started well in both Tests [this season] and kind of let teams back in, so we really want to play the game right for the whole 80 minutes,” he said.

“It’s always crucial for any team to be consistent and for this All Blacks team that’s what we want to do.”

Cane is the only change to the side that emphatically beat South Africa 35-20 two weeks ago, with Dalton Papalii coming into the starting XV.

“The Bledisloe means so much not only to the All Blacks, but the whole of New Zealand, so a lot is on the line,” Savea said.

“We know that, we feel that, we harness that. We have used that as fuel and energy this week and hopefully on Saturday.”

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Players to watch:

For Australia: It is a daunting task that awaits on the shoulder of young flyhalf Carter Gordon. The playmaker gets his first Wallabies start and replaces veteran Quade Cooper at No.10. Head coach Eddie Jones has backed Gordon to deliver and even said he sees glimpses of Butch James in the talent. Gordon will partner scrumhalf Tate McDermott, who is another player that will be keen to deliver a tremendous performance. The midfield is another exciting combination with Jordan Petaia returning at outside centre after a long injury lay-off and partnering Samu Kerevi. In the pack, prop Angus Bell gets a start ahead of James Slipper. Bell links up with hooker David Porecki and tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa, The front row will need to dominate the scrums. Will Skelton has been impressive in the last two Tests and will again be relied on for his physicality.

For New Zealand: No.8 Ardie Savea, who has been in incredible form, will lead the side in the absence of injured Sam Cane. Leading the All Blacks for the fifth time, Savea will be hoping that the role doesn’t hinder his usual robust performance. Dalton Papali’i comes in at openside flank, another hard man who never backs down from a collision. The backline looks absolutely lethal with playmaker Beauden Barrett at fullback, while Will Jordan will want to back up his man-of-the-match performance against the Springboks. On the bench, veteran lock Sam Whitelock is in line for his 144th cap in what would be his first Test appearance in eight months.

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Australia v New Zealand - Teams and Prediction

Stats

Australia v New Zealand - Teams and Prediction

Prediction

@rugby365com: All Blacks by 25 points.

Teams: 

Australia: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Tom Hooper, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Nick Frost, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Izaia Perese.

New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea (captain), 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Cam Roigard, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Caleb Clarke.

Date: Saturday, July 29
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.45 (21.45 New Zealand’s time; 09.45 GMT)
Expected weather: Partly sunny with a high of 18°C and a low 10°C
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

*Additional source: AFP

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