Australia v New Zealand - teams and predictions
BLEDISLOE CUP THREE: New Zealand hasn’t had to wrap up the Bledisloe Cup on Australian soil in 11 years.
For All Black coach Ian Foster that’s a massive motivation to snuff out Wallaby hopes of keeping the series alive when the two sides meet Saturday in Sydney.
After a 16-all draw at the opening game in Wellington, it was back to business as usual for the All Blacks at their Eden Park fortress in Auckland, where they won 27-7.
It means Australia must win on Saturday to stand any chance of lifting the Trans-Tasman trophy for the first time since 2002 at the fourth and final game in Brisbane on November 7.
While the match is the third Bledisloe fixture, it is also the first game of the Tri-Nations – the former Rugby Championship, rebranded after world champions South Africa pulled out – also including Argentina.
In the hosts’ favour is that New Zealand has not won the Cup in Australia since 2009, and that they have come out on top in two of their previous three matches against them at home, including a 47-26 walloping in Perth last year.
“None of our players, even our experienced ones, have had to win the trophy in Australia,” said Foster ahead of Saturday’s game.
“In the past, the deciding game has always been in New Zealand, so I think it’s a great challenge for us.”
“It’s a real chance for us to come into their home patch, a place which they take a lot of pride in playing and for a trophy which means a lot to them, and we need to show them how much it means to us,” he added.
Wallaby coach Dave Rennie is looking for his first win since taking over from Michael Cheika this year.
“We’re [keeping] an eye to the future but also about winning on Saturday,” said Rennie of his decision to blood new talent.
“We’re working really hard, we’re going to get a lot better over time, but you’ve got to get results now too and we’re well aware of the quality of the opposition,” he said.
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Because of coronavirus concerns, Australia is hosting the entire Tri-Nations.
The Wallabies and All Blacks will both play Argentina twice, with the last game on December 5.
The tournament is going ahead without South Africa’s Springboks, who decided they weren’t ready for bruising Test matches after a harsh coronavirus lockdown.
But Argentina, who have spent months in and out of bio-secure bubbles and quarantines, are taking part despite also not playing since the World Cup in Japan last year.
Players to watch
For Australia: The Wallabies head into the game without experienced pair Matt To’omua and James O’Connor, who are injured – potentially a crushing blow. Coach Dave Rennie has drafted in debutants Noah Lolesio at flyhalf and Irae Simone at inside centre to take their place, while dumping fullback Tom Banks for veteran Dane Haylett-Petty. The explosive Jordan Petaia will play his first Test in Australia, after being preferred to Hunter Paisami at outside centre, while Allan Alaalatoa got the nod ahead of Taniela Tupou at tight-head prop. There are two other potential debutants – Fraser McReight and Tate McDermott – on the bench.
For New Zealand: The All Black coach has made three changes to the run-on side, handing No.8 Hoskins Sotutu a starting debut, welcoming back veteran lock Sam Whitelock and recalling prop Karl Tu’inukuafe. Whitelock returns after missing the Auckland Test with concussion, the same injury that has kept Joe Moody out of Saturday’s fixture, opening the way for Tu’inukuafe. Sotutu comes in for Ardie Savea, who is on paternity leave, while all eyes will be on their new weapon, young wing Caleb Clarke whose rampaging runs in Auckland sparked comparisons to the great Jonah Lomu. Faced with Clarke and the ever-present danger posed by Beauden Barrett, Australia have their work cut out, with coach Dave Rennie desperate for his team to cut down on missed tackles and turnovers.
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Players Head to head
There are intriguing face-offs all over the park, but the key battles start at flyhalf – Noah Lolesio (Australia) versus Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand). With James O’Connor ruled out with an injury, the 20-years-old – after only having played three Super Rugby AU matches – Lolesio has been named to replace O’Connor in the starting side, and to make his test debut. His biggest challenge awaits him on Saturday, when he will have to outplay the talented Richie Mo’unga, who is still trying to find his feet in the test rugby arena. Also in the spine of the two teams the next big battle will see Harry Wilson (Australia) face off against Hoskins Sotutu (New Zealand). Wilson wasn’t just one of the best rookies throughout the 2020 Super Rugby season, he was one of the best players period. Blues No.8 Hoskins Sotutu is set to liven up against the Australian enforcer on Saturday, having been named to start. Sotutu has been a revelation of his own on the other side of the Tasman. To complete the battle of the spines there is Dane Haylett-Petty (Australia) against Beauden Barrett (New Zealand). Melbourne Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty has been unavailable for the first two Tests through injury. The 31-year-old is an invaluable addition for Dave Rennie’s side simply due to the experience that he can bring to a youthful backline, after already having faced the Haka seven times. Coming up against Haylett-Petty is Beauden Barrett, who was electrifying in his return to Test rugby in Bledisloe II. In fact, it was arguably one of it not the best game he’s played in a black jersey with the No.15 on his back.
Statistical look at the teams
New Zealand has lost only one of their last seven Tests against Australia; although, that single defeat did come in their last meeting on Australian soil (26-47 – on 10 August 2019 in Perth).
New Zealand has won seven of their last nine Tests against Australia at ANZ Stadium, including their last three in succession, scoring 45 points per game in that three-match stretch.
Australia has won four of their last five Tests at home, including their last three on the bounce –the last time they enjoyed a longer winning run in such fixtures was a four-match span from September 2013 to June 2014.
New Zealand has won five of their last six Tests outside New Zealand; the All Blacks’ single defeat in that span coming in the 2019 Rugby World Cup semifinal (19-7 v England).
Australia won their last Test in New South Wales (34-15 v Samoa), snapping a six-game losing run in the State; they will be out to secure back-to-back wins in NSW for the first time since 2009.
New Zealand has scored 70 tries at ANZ Stadium, their second-most at any Test ground outside New Zealand; they need two more at the Olympic venue to surpass their current record in this category (71 at the Sydney Cricket Ground).
Australia (982) are 18 points away from making ANZ Stadium the third home venue they’ve scored 1,000 points in Tests and the first outside Queensland (1,316 –Ballymore and 1,019 –Suncorp Stadium); the Wallabies have scored 21 points per game in their last six Tests at the ground.
Australia has gained 600+ metres in each of their last two Tests on Australian soil, after not reaching this mark in any of their 44 Tests prior on home turf.
Marika Koroibete (Australia) has scored 13 tries since making his Test debut (16 September 2017), the most of any Wallabies player in that time; New Zealand’s Rieko Ioane (18) and South Africa’s Makazole Mapimpi (14) are the only Southern Hemisphere tier-one players with more in this period.
Beauden Barrett (11) needs one more for the outright most Test tries against Australia of any player; he is currently level with Richie McCaw and Ma’a Nonu and has blanked in his last two Tests against the Wallabies.
Teams head to head
Last 10 encounters
@rugby365: New Zealand by 15 points
Australia: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Hunter Paisami.
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Date: Saturday, October 31
Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.45 AEDT (21.45 NZ time; 08.45 GMT)
Expected weather: Heavy thunderstorms, with 90 percent chance of rain. High of 24°C and a low of 14°C
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, Nic Berry
TMO: Angus Gardner
* Additional reporting by @rugby365com & RugbyPass
** Statistics provided by Opta Sport