New Zealand v Australia: Prediction and Teams
BLEDISLOE CUP ROUND TWO: The “hurting” All Blacks will look to restore pride against Australia at their Eden Park fortress on Sunday after last week’s 16-16 draw further dimmed their aura of invincibility in coach Ian Foster’s first game in charge.
Foster criticised the three-time world champions’ “relatively poor” game management for the drawn first Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington and warned they will not make the same mistake in Round Two on Sunday.
As Test rugby’s resumption goes into its second week in New Zealand, where there is no community COVID-19 transmission, a crowd of 47 000 is expected to pack Auckland’s Eden Park – where the All Blacks are unbeaten in 43 games.
However, the Wallabies are riding high. After going into the first Test as underdogs and ended up outmuscling the All Blacks for much of the game and saw a penalty bounce off the posts after the final hooter.
For Australia, who last won the annual Bledisloe Cup series in 2002, it was a moral victory with coach Dave Rennie saying, “it’s something we’ll draw on Sunday afternoon”.
There is even confidence in the Wallaby camp that they can smash the curse of Eden Park, where it has been 34 years and 19 Tests since they last tasted victory.
But whenever Australia has started a Bledisloe series well in recent years, they have generally been thrashed the following week, and Foster warned they can again expect a vast improvement from the All Blacks.
“It was a game where we didn’t achieve the level that we wanted to, that’s clear and obvious, and yet we walked away with a 16-all draw,” said Foster.
“So, we’re hurting and it’s the way it should be. We know we’ve got to respond.”
No room for sentiment
While Foster rated the All Blacks scrum and line-out as effective, he said, “how we used those as weapons was probably relatively poor” and also called for more aggression.
Among five changes, Foster included blockbusting wing Caleb Clarke and moved no-nonsense hooker Dane Cole into the front row, while Beauden Barrett returns from injury to take over the fullback role.
His 36-Test brother Scott Barrett, who has been sidelined for three months by a foot injury, will come off the bench in the second half, while experienced centre Anton Lienert-Brown starts in place of Rieko Ioane, who fluffed a certain try last week when he failed to ground the ball properly.
Foster said he accepted criticism that the All Blacks lacked their usual edge in Wellington.
“Those comments come every time we have a performance that doesn’t reach our expectations for starters, so there’s not much point arguing with them,” he said.
“Is it time for a statement? Well, yes, it is.”
Despite Australia’s delight after the first Test, Rennie had no room for sentiment as he made four changes to his line-up.
Hooker Folau Fainga’a, who struggled at line-out time and nearly gifted the All Blacks a try with a sloppy pass, makes way for Brandon Paenga-Amosa, and the size of the pack has been bolstered by Ned Hanigan replacing Pete Samu in the loose forwards.
Star outside back Jordan Petaia and Queensland Reds flank Liam Wright have been added to the bench.
“We know that New Zealand will step it up another level this weekend, we’re excited by the challenge ahead,” Rennie said.
New Zealand have held the Bledisloe Cup for the past 18 years and after the drawn Test last weekend, Australia will need to win two of the remaining three matches to win it back.
The third and fourth Tests will be played in Australia on October 31 and November 7 as part of the Rugby Championship, which also involves Argentina.
Players to watch:
For New Zealand: Beauden Barrett has been the Wallabies’ chief tormentor over the years and he is back in the No.15 jersey for Sunday’s match. Anton Lienert-Brown is a more familiar option in the midfield than Rieko Ioane and he should give the All Blacks more direction. In the pack, Tupou Vaa’i is a promising young lock and will want to put in a performance to give Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett something to think about.
For Australia: Ned Hanigan will have an important role in trying to help the Wallabies dominate the breakdowns on Sunday. Brandon Paenga-Amosa will also have a spotlight on him when it comes to line-outs after Folau Fainga’a’s poor performance last weekend. In the backline, James O’Connor will want to stamp his authority on the game which could get away from the Wallabies if they are not focussed in the Eden Park cauldron.
Head to head
The halfbacks will be key again in this one. A lot of New Zealanders are still not convinced about Richie Mo’unga’s abilities on the Test stage and James O’Connor could stir things up if he outplays his opponent. Aaron Smith and Nic White will try and outdo each other when it comes to annoying opponents around the breakdowns. The battle of the two No.7s and the captains will be an intriguing one as well, especially when it comes to disrupting opposition ball.
@rugby365com: New Zealand by eight points
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 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Rieko Ioane, 23 Damian McKenzie.
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Jordan Petaia, 23 Reece Hodge.
Date: Sunday, October 18
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 16.00 (14.00 AEDT; 03.00 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be partly cloudy with a high of 17°C and a low of 14°C. There will be a breeze of 17km/h.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keefe, Paul Williams
TMO: Mike Fraser
AFP & @rugby365com