AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND - TEAMS AND PREDICTIONS
BLEDISLOE CUP FOUR: Mighty New Zealand have vowed to lift their game even further in the fourth and final Bledisloe Cup Test on Saturday, in an ominous sign for Australia after their record drubbing last week.
The All Blacks produced a masterclass to seal the trans-Tasman trophy for an 18th straight year in Sydney, asserting their supremacy in a 43-5 rout – their highest winning margin against the Wallabies.
After the first match in Wellington was a 16-16 draw, New Zealand ran away with the second winning 27-7 in Auckland.
Coach Ian Foster will blood four debutants in a match that doubles as a fixture in the Tri-Nations also featuring Argentina, rebranded from the Rugby Championship after World Cup holders South Africa pulled out over coronavirus disruption.
But that doesn’t mean the All Blacks will take their foot off the accelerator in Brisbane.
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“It’s a real focus for this team to try to keep lifting it’s performance,” said Foster. “I know it’s tough, but that’s what being an All Black is all about.
“We’ve been really delighted with the whole squad so we feel that there are some players who are really putting their hand up and deserve an opportunity,” he added.
“It’ll be another massive test so we’ve brought in some freshness and new energy into the group. Players are jumping out of their skins to get onto the park.”
Last week’s man-of-the-match Richie Mo’unga is rested with Beauden Barrett reverting to his preferred position at flyhalf and brother Jordie replacing him at fullback.
Back-row Akira Ioane is in the starting side for his maiden Test, with fellow newcomers Asafo Aumua, Cullen Grace and Will Jordan on the bench.
Ardie Savea returns from paternity leave at number eight, while veteran lock Sam Whitelock will make his 120th appearance – and his 100th start, only the fifth New Zealander to achieve the feat.
The match will also see Wallabies prop James Slipper earn his 100th cap, although more than half of those have been from the bench.
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After being flayed by media and fans for their error-strewn performance in Sydney, coach Dave Rennie has demanded big improvements from the Wallabies.
A sloppy Australia conceded too many turnovers and failed to create opportunities, with “accuracy” the buzzword once again this week in camp.
“We were just way too loose with ball in hand and as we’ve learned in the last few Tests you can’t keep handing the ball back to the All Blacks,” Rennie said.
“They’re tough lessons, but this is Test footie and we’ve got to treasure the ball,” he added.
Rennie will take heart from Australia winning their last six Tests on the bounce at Suncorp Stadium, with their last defeat in Brisbane coming four years ago against England.
He has rung the changes, dropping flyhalf Noah Lolesio after a torrid debut in favour of Reece Hodge, who usually plays wing or fullback. Experienced backs Matt To’omua and James O’Connor are both still out injured.
Elsewhere, veteran lock Rob Simmons takes over from the injured Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Tom Banks comes in for Dane Haylett-Petty at fullback.
Tom Wright got the nod for his first start over winger Filipo Daugunu, while Lachlan Swinton makes his debut at blindside flank in place of Ned Hanigan.
Asked if he was confident the Wallabies could bounce back and win, Rennie replied: “Yeah, I am.”
“A frustration for us is that we’ve lacked patience, or lacked communication, or lacked the accuracy to expose them,” he added.
“We need to be at our best to knock the All Blacks over and we need to play and apply pressure so they are not at their best. That’s what we saw in Wellington and that’s what we need to see this weekend.”
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Players to watch:
For Australia: The Wallabies is in dire need of some sort of luck and the inclusion of Reece Hodge at flyhalf is certainly shock and could even be a stroke of genius by coach Dave Rennie. The utility ace has played every position in Australia’s backline bar scrumhalf during his 42-Test career – but only once in the No.10 jumper. Meanwhile, there will be loads of pressure on Brumbies wing and former Manly NRL playmaker Tom Wright and Waratahs flank Lachie Swinton, who will become Rennie’s eighth and ninth Test debutants on Saturday.
For New Zealand: Despite fielding a so-called ‘B’ team, there is no doubt Australia will have their worked cut out for them. The mercurial Beauden Barrett returns to his favourite position – flyhalf, with his brother Jordie taking over the No.15 jersey. The return Sevu Reece at wing and Ngani Laumape at centre is another boost for the already powerful backline. In the pack, the long-awaited debut Akira Ioane will be an additional intriguing feat in the pack.
Head to head:
With the Bledisloe Cup already in the All Blacks’ hands, this match is regarded as dead-rubber. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be entertaining with big match-ups all over the park. The most critical of them all will certainly be at flyhalf – Australia’s ‘Mr Fixit’ Reece Hodge against the skilful and dynamic Beauden Barrett of New Zealand. The battle of the loose forwards will be another one for the books – Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper (captain) and debutant Lachie Swinton of Australia against Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (captain) and debutant Akira Ioane. The set-piece battle is always one to look out for – Matt Philip, Rob Simmons, Allan Alaalatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and James Slipper (Australia) versus Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Ofa Tuungafasi, Codie Taylor and Karl Tu’inukuafe (New Zealand).
@rugby365: New Zealand by 15 points
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lachie Swinton, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Ned Hanigan, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Filipo Daugunu.
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Cullen Grace, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Will Jordan.
Date: Saturday, November 7
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19.45 (21.45 NZ time; 08.45 GMT)
Expected weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 27°C and a low of 17°C
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Angus Gardner
TMO: Paul Williams
* Additional reporting by @rugby365com