This article previews Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash between the All Blacks and Wallabies at Eden Park in Auckland. The game kicks off at 5:35 PM AEST on Saturday the 25th of August.
Australia’s loss to New Zealand at ANZ Stadium last week means they must win this fixture to keep the Bledisloe Cup alive going into the Brisbane Test in October.
Below are the most recent results between the two sides. Under coach Robbie Deans the Wallabies have won only three times in 16 outings against the All Blacks. Two of those wins came after the All Blacks had already secured the Bledisloe Cup for another year.
The Wallabies have a terrible record at Eden Park, having last won there in 1986. Australia aren’t the only side to struggle in Auckland. The All Blacks have recorded 28 consecutive Test wins at Eden Park since they drew with the Springboks in 1994. Below are the most recent Eden Park results between the All Blacks and Wallabies.
Last Week’s Test
The Wallabies hosted the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, with the visitors triumphing 27-19 to deny Australia a bonus point. Both teams looked rusty with the squads not having played together since the international Tests in June.
Australia were let down by poor handling errors, with Kurtley Beale in particular having a bad game. He was beaten one on one by Israel Dagg which led to the All Blacks’ first try and Beale’s knock-on from a teammate’s pass gave the All Blacks an attacking scrum from which they scored their second try.
Nathan Sharpe scored a try at the end of the first half to get the Wallabies back into the match but they couldn’t make inroads into the eight point deficit in the second half. The All Blacks threatened to score again but were let down by poor finishing while the Wallabies struggled to make inroads through the strong All Blacks defence. In attack the Wallabies moved from side to side at times, showing little ability to get over the advantage line. Three penalties apiece were the only scoring plays in the second half.
The game was not much of a spectacle, although Irish referee Alain Rolland played a role in that. Nigel Owens from Wales will referee this weekend’s game.
Tony Woodcock has been ruled out of the second Test with a rib injury. Wyatt Crockett will start at loosehead prop in his place. Below is the squad for Saturday.
15 – Israel Dagg, 14 – Cory Jane, 13 – Ma’a Nonu, 12 – Sonny Bill Williams, 11 – Hosea Gear, 10 – Dan Carter, 9 – Aaron Smith, 8 – Kieran Read, 7 – Richie McCaw (captain), 6 – Liam Messam, 5 – Sam Whitelock, 4 – Luke Romano, 3 – Owen Franks, 2 – Keven Mealamu, 1 – Wyatt Crockett
Reserves: 16 – Andrew Hore, 17 – Ben Franks, 18 – Brodie Retallick, 19 – Victor Vito, 20 – Piri Weepu, 21 – Aaron Cruden, 22 – Ben Smith.
Will Genia will skipper the side after captain David Pocock underwent surgery on his knee during the week. Pocock is likely to be out of action for three months.
Tighthead prop Sekope Kepu will miss Saturday’s clash after damaging the medial ligament in his knee in training. It is unclear how long he will be out.
Hooker Tatafu Polota Nau has been a late removal from the line-up after he pulled up following training midweek.
Australian selectors have opted more attacking flair in the backs for this Test. Quade Cooper has been recalled to the squad while Kurtley Beale misses out on a start. In a reshuffled backline Adam Ashley-Cooper moves from right-wing to fullback while Berrick Barnes moves from fly-half to inside-centre. The changes in the forwards are all injury enforced. The changes from last week are:
15 – Kurtley Beale –> Adam Ashley-Cooper
14 – Adam Ashley-Cooper –> Drew Mitchell
12 – Anthony Faingaa –> Berrick Barnes
10 – Berrick Barnes –> Quade Cooper
7 – David Pocock –> Michael Hooper
3 – Sekope Kepu –> Ben Alexander
2 – Tatafu Polota Nau –> Stephen Moore
Below is the Wallabies squad for Saturday’s clash:
15 – Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 – Drew Mitchell, 13 – Rob Horne, 12 – Berrick Barnes, 11 – Digby Ioane, 10 – Quade Cooper, 9 – Will Genia (captain), 8 – Scott Higginbotham, 7 – Michael Hooper, 6 – Dave Dennis, 5 – Nathan Sharpe, 4 – Sitaleki Timani, 3 – Ben Alexander, 2 – Stephen Moore, 1 – Benn Robinson
Reserves: Saia Faingaa, Anthony Faingaa, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, James Slipper, Radike Samo, Liam Gill.
Whether Quade Cooper will receive the harsh treatment he encountered during the World Cup remains to be seen. The Kiwis have a long memory so I fancy he’ll still receive some stick for his “cheap shots” on Richie McCaw in the Bledisloe Cup last year.
Critics of Robbie Deans will be quick to point out that the squad contains 7 Waratahs players, although Brumbies fans will be pleased to see three of their players in the starting line-up after none made the first 15 last week.
Both sides have substantial room for improvement for the second Test. As pundits on both sides of the Tasman have noted, the All Blacks failed to get out of 3rd gear while the Wallabies were let down by handling errors and a lack of physicality.
The All Blacks are really missing the injured Conrad Smith. While the midfield pairing of Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams is intimidating, they both lack the passing ability of Smith, who is a great on-field thinker.
The Wallabies will have to find a way to overcome the physical All Blacks defence. In Sydney they were dominated physically up front which prevented them from getting quick ball.
The Wallabies have done a lot less talking this week. Prior to Sydney they spoke at length about how they planned to play against the All Blacks, but they were unable to deliver on those plans on the field. Hooker Stephen Moore has said “We have been very good at saying what we’ve got to do, we’ve just got to do it. People are probably sick of hearing of how we are going to do things, and want to see more happening on the field.”
While the Wallabies have plenty of room for improvement after the first Test, so do the All Blacks. They let a number of scoring chances go begging and they could have put another 14 points on the board had they been at their clinical best.
I predict the All Blacks will win by about 14 points, while the bookmakers have installed New Zealand as 14.5 point favourites, so it’s hard to find value this week.
My lingering memory from the Sydney Test is of the All Blacks letting a number of tries go begging with the final pass. They’ve only made one injury enforced change to the squad and I expect them to be more clinical now that they’ve had a game under their belt. The Wallabies, on the other hand, have made seven player and positional changes from last week. At 1.62 odds (Luxbet), my best bet is for the All Blacks to win by 13+.
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