Preview: New Zealand v Australia
BLEDISLOE CUP TWO: All Black captain Kieran Read warned he was in a “prickly” mood Friday as he demanded a marked improvement in discipline and defence for Saturday’s Trans-Tasman decider against the Wallabies in Auckland.
At stake is not only the All Blacks’ 16-year grip on the cup, but also the defence of a phenomenal record at Eden Park where they have not been beaten in 42 Tests since 1994.
Another Australian triumph would also mark the first time since 2011 that the All Blacks have lost two matches in a row and, after their recent draw with South Africa, it would be the first time in 260 Tests since 1998 they have gone three successive matches without a win.
Wallabies’ coach Michael Cheika has stuck with his winning formula from Sydney a week ago, while the All Blacks are still tinkering with their preferred line-up.
Read cut a stern figure as he led the All Blacks through the captain’s run pre-game training session on Friday.
Referring to his “prickly nature”, the All Blacks skipper said: “If you don’t do that you’re not going to get a response.
“It’s a do-or-die game… it’s our discipline and our ability to defend early that’s going to be key. They put pressure on us through that last week so we have to respond.”
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Coach Steve Hansen, who will be marking his 100th Test in charge of the All Blacks, has been emphatic in spelling out his priorities with the World Cup number one and then the Bledisloe, which he suggested was a learning exercise.
“They’re going to test our resolve to step up to the plate and we’ll learn a lot out of it and march on to the next occasion,” he said.
The Wallabies have not won at Eden Park in 18 games over the past 33 years, a dismal statistic which coach Michael Cheika has turned into a challenge.
“There’s no point in hiding from it,” he said.
“We know that that’s a big challenge but if you want to make a change, one person has got to say, ‘Okay, this is going to change’.
Then the next person will join in and the next person will join in.
“You’re allowed to understand the history of the event and also the game, the trophy and also the venue, to make it ultra-important.”
Despite being outplayed last week, Hansen has insisted the situation was like 2015 when the All Blacks were well beaten in Sydney and bounced back with a five-tries-to-one victory in Auckland.
Australia, however, made sweeping changes to their line-up between the Tests four years ago while Cheika this time has made only one, with Adam Coleman in for the injured Rory Arnold.
Hansen has made five changes including the axing of the battle-hardened Ben Smith, Owen Franks and Rieko Ioane.
He used the word “dumped” but also said that with an eye on the World Cup they would probably have been rested anyway to see how replacement wings George Bridge and Sevu Reece, along with prop Nepo Laulala, handle a pressure game.
The Wallabies last beat the All Blacks in New Zealand in 2001, when they sneaked home 24-23 in Dunedin.
Players to watch:
For New Zealand: After last week’s performance changes were inevitable. Three players have been axed – all big names, with Rieko Ioane joining Owen Franks and Ben Smith moved to the reject pile. George Bridge and Sevu Reece are in for Ioane and Smith in the No.11 and No.14 jerseys respectively, while Jordie Barrett comes onto the bench in the No.23 jersey. The two other changes involve Sonny Bill Williams returning at inside centre for the injured Jack Goodhue, with Patrick Tuipulotu is in for the suspended Scott Barrett.
For Australia: Keeping their winning formula was a given, with the only change Adam Coleman coming in for giant lock Rory Arnold, who hurt his hand in Perth. Kurtley Beale’s performance at fullback, especially after last week’s show, will attract plenty of attention. Isi Naisarani and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will again have to be the enforcers against an angry All Black pack.
Head to head:
Beauden Barrett (New Zealand) against Kurtley Beale (Australia) is a delectable prospect. However, perhaps more intriguing is the guile of Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand) against the brute that is Samu Kerevi (Australia). The Wallaby pack will again have to impose themselves physically on their All Black rivals, with the loose forward combination of Kieran Read, Sam Cane and Ardie Savea (New Zealand) requiring the biggest improvement against Isi Naisarani, Michael Hooper and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.
Richie Mo’unga striking them well evidently
— Christy Doran (@ChristypDoran) August 16, 2019
2019: Australia won 47-26, Perth
2018: New Zealand won 37-20, Yokohama
2018: New Zealand won 40-12, Auckland
2018: New Zealand won 38-13,
2017: Australia won 23-18, Brisbane
2017: New Zealand won 35-29, Dunedin
2017: New Zealand won 54-34, Sydney
2016: New Zealand won 37-10, Auckland
2016: New Zealand won 29-9, Wellington
2016: New Zealand won 42-8, Sydney
Prediction: Australia has won just two of their last 10 encounters with New Zealand, including last week’s 47-26 demolition. The last time the Wallabies won at Eden Park was on 6 September 1986 – a 22-9 triumph. This Auckland venue has been described as the All Blacks’ field of dreams and the Wallabies’ worst nightmare. We also know the New Zealand team won’t stay down for too long and that is why we back them to win by about 10 points and retain the Bledisloe Cup.
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 George Bridge; 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Ardie Savea, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Date: Saturday, August 17
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT, 17.35 AEST)
Expected weather: Mostly cloudy, with a touch of rain in the afternoon. High of 17°C and a low of 9°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
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