The following is a preview with betting tips for the Week 3 Rugby Championship clash between the Wallabies and All Blacks. This fixture also serves as the first of two Bledisloe Cup Tests, with the second to be played at Eden Park next week.
This weekend’s Test will be played on Saturday the 8th of August at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Kick-off is at 8:05 PM AEST. The referee is Wayne Barnes from England.
This fixture will determine the winner of the Rugby Championship, but to be fair, all four sides have been keeping one eye on the World Cup this tournament. There has been plenty of experimentation and player rotation each week.
The Wallabies have not beaten the All Blacks since 2011, however they have drawn twice since then. A loss on Saturday would equal Australia’s longest ever winless streak of 11 matches against one nation. The last time the Wallabies beat the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium was in 2008. Below are the most recent results on Australian soil.
2014 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Australia 28-29 New Zealand
2014 – ANZ Stadium, Sydney – Australia 12-12 New Zealand
2013 – ANZ Stadium, Sydney – Australia 29-47 New Zealand
2012 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Australia 18-18 New Zealand
2012 – ANZ Stadium, Sydney – Australia 19-27 New Zealand
2011 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Australia 25-20 New Zealand
2010 – ANZ Stadium, Sydney – Australia 22-23 New Zealand
2010 – Etihad Stadium, Melbourne – Australia 28-49 New Zealand
2009 – ANZ Stadium, Sydney – Australia 18-19 New Zealand
2008 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Australia 24-28 New Zealand
The Wallabies have named two openside flankers in the run-on side, with Michael Hooper and David Pocock both starting this weekend. Pocock will start at No. 8 with Ben McCalman dropping to the bench. Hooper is clear to play after he officially served his one-game SANZAR suspension by being named to play for Manly last weekend.
Other changes to the forwards see Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu start in the front row ahead of Greg Holmes and James Slipper. The Wallabies have lost premier lineout jumper Rob Simmons for a month due to a wrist injury, so Dean Mumm will partner James Horwill in the second row, with Will Skelton named on the bench.
In the backs Drew Mitchell comes in on the wing with Joe Tomane dropping out of the squad. Matt Giteau returns at inside centre with Matt Toomua dropping to the bench. Quade Cooper has dropped out of the squad after starting in Round 1 and being named on the bench in Round 2.
1. Scott Sio, 2. Stephen Moore (c), 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Dean Mumm, 5. James Horwill, 6. Scott Fardy, 7. Michael Hooper (vc), 8. David Pocock, 9. Nick Phipps, 10. Bernard Foley, 11. Drew Mitchell, 12. Matt Giteau, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (vc), 15. Israel Folau
Reserves: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17. James Slipper, 18. Greg Holmes, 19. Will Skelton, 20. Ben McCalman, 21. Nic White, 22. Matt Toomua, 23. Kurtley Beale
All Blacks Squad
The All Blacks have rejigged their backline for this clash. Nehe Milner-Skudder has recovered from a rib injury and will make his starting debut on the right wing, with Ben Smith shifting to fullback at the expense of Israel Dagg. On the left wing Julian Savea comes in with Charles Piutau dropping out of the squad. Ma’a Nonu is out with a minor shoulder injury, so Sonny Bill Williams gets the start at inside-centre with Malakai Fekitoa again named on the bench. Dan Carter starts at fly-half with Beauden Barrett named on the bench.
In the forwards, Luke Romano comes in for James Broadhurst at lock while Jerome Kaino gets the start ahead of Liam Messam on the blindside.
1. Tony Woodock, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Brodie Retallick, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Richie McCaw (c), 8. Kieran Read, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Dan Carter, 11. Julian Savea, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. Conrad Smith, 14. Nehe Milner-Skudder, 15. Ben Smith
Reserves: 16. Codie Taylor, 17. Ben Franks, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Sam Whitelock, 20. Sam Cane, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Beauden Barrett, 23. Malakai Fekitoa
Both sides have named arguably their best available squad for this clash, so both coaches clearly view this as an important Test. Both countries have opted for experience with less experimental combinations in the backs this week.
Few will be surprised that the Wallabies have named both Michael Hooper and David Pocock in the starting XV. The All Blacks came off second best at the breakdown a fortnight ago, with the two specialist opensides in Heinrich Brussow and Schalk Burger starting for the Springboks. It will be interesting to see how the Wallabies scrum, which is considered to be second best to the All Blacks, holds up without a specialist No. 8 at the back.
With Rob Simmons out for both this and next week, James Horwill gets the opportunity to impress after a disappointing Super Rugby campaign. The Wallabies will be hoping their lineout can remain effective without their regular caller and leading jumper.
The introduction of Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu ahead of Greg Holmes and James Slipper in the front row is to be expected, given the Wallabies scrum was dominated a fortnight ago by Argentina until Sio and Kepu were brought on. The only issue is this leaves the Wallabies with less impact from the bench.
The Wallabies have opted for the experienced Matt Giteau at inside-centre. It will be interesting to see how he matches up against the heavier Sonny Bill Williams.
The overall quality of the game against Argentina was far below that of the Springboks vs. All Blacks clash, so despite the dominant 34-9 scoreline in favour of the Wallabies, further improvement is required if they are to pose a serious threat to New Zealand. Apart from improvements in the scrum, the Wallabies need to iron out conceding soft penalties, which Dan Carter will be happy to capitalise on.
Some have criticised the Wallabies for not being innovative enough under Michael Cheika. This fixture will serve as a key test of his coaching skills. A strong performance will give the Wallabies a massive boost leading up to the World Cup – even if they do lose at Eden Park next week. A heavy defeat, however, would be a backward step, with the Wallabies facing a notoriously difficult group stage in the World Cup.
All Blacks Perspective
The All Blacks shook off a slow start to see off the Springboks in Johannesburg a fortnight ago. They won the game despite a significant deficit in possession, coming off second best at the breakdown and having their backs to the wall for much of the game. The fact that the Springboks weren’t able to secure the win is a testament to what makes the All Blacks great. They have a fantastic ability to soak up pressure for long periods of time and they show incredible composure and self belief late in games to come back from losing positions. As is the case for so many champion sides, the All Blacks are fantastic defenders, with defence so often the overlooked key to success.
Some across the Tasman fear the All Blacks are becoming complacent, but the gutsy win last week shows there’s still plenty of desire to win every fixture and the fact that the All Blacks have named such a strong squad this week emphasises how important they deem this fixture to be.
On Saturday the All Blacks will look to keep Israel Folau quiet and improve on their performance at the breakdown. They will also look to assert their dominance at the set pieces. The All Blacks still look to be far from peaking, but it will be interesting to see whether they are happy to come off second best again in the possession and territory stakes or whether they push to win all aspects of the game, not just the scoreboard.
Most bookmakers have installed the All Blacks as 5.5 favourites for this clash. The last ten results in Australia have resulted as follows:
Australia win 13+ – 0
Australia win 1-12 – 1
Draw – 2
New Zealand win 1-12 – 5 (4 of which were by 1-5)
New Zealand win 13+ – 2
If I had to bet on the line market I would take the Wallabies +5.5 at 1.92 (Sportsbet). This selection would have won in 7 of the last 10 Tests on Australian soil.
At the time of writing the best head-to-head odds are:
The All Blacks and Wallabies both covet two trophies more than all others: (1) the Webb Ellis Cup awarded to the Rugby World Cup winner and (2) the Bledisloe Cup. The All Blacks would dearly love to win this fixture to secure the Bledisloe Cup because it would enable them to use the dead rubber next week as an opportunity to test combinations rather than fight to avoid losing the coveted trophy. Their squad selection speaks volumes. It is certainly stronger than the one that faced the Springboks, which highlights how seriously New Zealand is taking this fixture. The All Blacks are the best side in the world and playing in Australia holds no fear for them. I would back the All Blacks in the head-to-head at 1.48 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
If I had to bet on the margin market I would back New Zealand 1-12 at 2.63 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes). Given 4 of the last 10 meetings between the two on Australian soil were won by the All Blacks by 1-5 points, the New Zealand 1-5 at 5.00 with bet365 is also worth a shout.