The following is a preview with betting tips for the Bledisloe Cup clash between the All Blacks and Wallabies. The Test will be played on Saturday the 15th of August at Eden Park in Auckland. Kick-off is at 5:35 PM AEST.
For the first time since 2007 the final Bledisloe Cup fixture is not a dead rubber. The Wallabies’ victory at ANZ Stadium last week means another win this weekend would see Australia reclaim the coveted trophy for the first time since 2002. History is firmly against them, however, with the All Blacks boasting an ominous record at Eden Park.
Australia’s 27–19 win over New Zealand last week was their first victory over the All Blacks since 2011, however they have drawn twice since then. Like most countries the Wallabies have a dreadful record on New Zealand soil so they will start as the firm underdog this weekend. Australia’s last victory in New Zealand was in Dunedin in 2001 and the Wallabies haven’t won at Eden Park since 1986. Below are the most recent results in New Zealand.
2014 – Eden Park, Auckland – New Zealand 51 – 20 Australia
2013 – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin – New Zealand 41 – 33 Australia
2013 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington – New Zealand 27 – 16 Australia
2012 – Eden Park, Auckland – New Zealand 22 – 0 Australia
2011 – Eden Park, Auckland – New Zealand 20 – 6 Australia
2011 – Eden Park, Auckland – New Zealand 30 – 14 Australia
2010 – AMI Stadium, Christchurch – New Zealand 20 – 10 Australia
2009 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington – New Zealand 33 – 6 Australia
2009 – Eden Park, Auckland – New Zealand 22 – 16 Australia
2008 – Eden Park, Auckland – New Zealand 39 – 10 Australia
All Blacks Squad
The All Blacks have resisted the temptation to make sweeping changes to the squad that lost last week, making only three changes to the starting XV. In the backs the fit-again Ma’a Nonu returns at inside centre with the injured Sonny Bill Williams dropping out of the squad. In the forwards Victor Vito gets the nod at blindside flanker with Jerome Kaino dropping to the bench. In the second row Sam Whitelock comes in with Luke Romano dropping out of the squad.
On the bench Colin Slade comes in at the expense of Beauden Barrett, while Keven Mealamu and Wyatt Crockett replace Codie Taylor and Ben Franks.
15. Ben Smith, 14. Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Daniel Carter, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Kieran Read, 7. Richie McCaw, 6. Victor Vito, 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Brodie Retallick, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Dane Coles, 1. Tony Woodcock
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Colin Slade, Malakai Fekitoa
The Wallabies have made a number of changes to the winning squad from last week. Will Skelton comes in for Dean Mumm in the second row while Wycliff Palu gets the start at No. 8 with David Pocock dropping to the bench.
In the backs Nic White and Quade Cooper start at halfback and fly-half, respectively, at the expense of Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley. Other backline changes see Adam Ashley-Cooper switch from the right wing to the left, with Henry Speight coming in on the right wing and Drew Mitchell dropping out of the squad. Matt Toomua will start at inside centre, with Matt Giteau dropping to the bench.
Coach Michael Cheika has opted for six forwards and two backs on the bench, with Kane Douglas brought in at the expense of a specialist backup halfback. Matt Giteau would take over at halfback should Nic White come off.
15. Israel Folau, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Matt Toomua, 11. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Nic White, 8. Wycliff Palu, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Scott Fardy, 5. Will Skelton, 4. James Horwill, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Scott Sio
Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Greg Holmes, Kane Douglas, Dean Mumm, David Pocock, Matt Giteau, Kurtley Beale
Last week’s result may have been beneficial for both sides. The Wallabies received a massive confidence boost while the All Blacks received a timely reality check. The result this weekend will provide great insight into the form of both sides leading into the World Cup. A comfortable win for New Zealand would signal a return to normal service for the All Blacks, however a win for the Wallabies would see New Zealand lose the trophy they value second only to the Webb Ellis Cup (awarded to the World Cup winner). A loss at the fortress that is Eden Park would certainly shake up everyone’s expectations leading into the World Cup. Of the two sides the All Blacks certainly have the most to lose this weekend. The Wallabies just need to ensure they don’t suffer a blowout defeat.
Both sides looked below their best last week so this fixture will provide a final chance for each team to iron out some issues ahead of the World Cup.
All Blacks Perspective
Word from across the Tasman during the week was that the All Blacks were facing a balancing act between retaining the Bledisloe Cup and building for the World Cup. Coach Steve Hansen seems to favour the former goal, naming a vastly experienced squad that might not be too dissimilar to the one that features in the knock-out stage of the World Cup. According to Fox Sports, the All Blacks will be fielding their most experienced starting side in history. The 966 combined caps correspond to over 64 Tests per player, which is believed to be a world record. The risk, however, is that they are chasing the Bledisloe Cup at the expense of the World Cup by putting so many key players on the line. Also, a number of selected players have had quiet Super Rugby campaigns this year, having being nursed through the competition with mandatory rests. This raises the question as to whether some players are being selected based on glories past.
The breakdown has become an issue for the All Blacks after they came off second best in this department against both the Springboks and Wallabies. Selectors have responded by giving Victor Vito a surprise start at blindside flanker, although many across the Tasman would like to see Ardie Savea given a shot. It’s worth pointing out that the Highlanders forward pack’s performance was a major contributor to their Super Rugby title this year. Their dominance over the Chiefs in the qualifiers was a classic example and yet not one forward from their squad was given a call up to even the All Blacks extended training squad. There’s a chance that the All Blacks are paying the price for selecting the best players from the last year or two rather than this season.
Another takeaway from last week’s loss was the fact that the All Blacks were “out-passioned” by the Wallabies, to borrow from Ma’a Nonu who watched the game from the sidelines. The Wallabies put more energy into the rucks and were generally the more physical side last week. With New Zealand back at Eden Park on Saturday and with a point to prove, I’m not expecting any lack of passion from the men in black this weekend.
Coach Michael Cheika is keeping one eye on the World Cup by naming a different side to the one that beat the All Blacks last week. Rather than stick with a formula he know works, Cheika is willing to continue experimenting with combinations, even if it possibly costs Australia a chance to reclaim the Bledisloe Cup. Rain is forecast in Auckland this weekend, so it may also be that some of the forwards selections reflect the expected playing conditions. One perspective on the six changes to the starting line-up is it gives Australia less to lose this weekend. If they lose on Saturday they can go to the World Cup saying their best XV beat the All Blacks in their last outing. If Cheika had gone for a perceived best starting line-up this week and lost, he ran the risk of eroding belief that Australia can beat the All Blacks again in October.
One of the biggest changes sees Australia return to having just one specialist open-side flanker on the field, with Wycliff Palu getting the start at No.8 and David Pocock dropping to the bench. Perhaps Pocock will come in for Palu in the second half to partner Hooper again?
Will Skelton gets another chance to impress after being given the start in the second row. He has performed poorly against the All Blacks in the past so this will be a chance for him to silence his doubters.
In the backs Cheika has opted for the 9/10 pairing of Nic White and Quade Cooper instead of Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley. Foley has been disappointing this season so the door remains open for Cooper to become Australia’s first-choice fly-half again. It will be interesting to see how he handles the hostile Eden Park atmosphere. Will the Kiwis continue to jeer every time he gets the ball?
Another talking point is the 6-2 bench, with Matt Giteau covering as the back-up halfback. This again shows Cheika’s willingness to experiment ahead of the World Cup. He has certainly given himself plenty of forwards options for a fixture with wet weather forecasted.
Looking at the squad from a tactical perspective, with Rob Simmons still injured and Skelton not particularly known for his line-out abilities, the All Blacks may view the line-out as a possible weakness for Australia this weekend. With wet weather forecast the line-outs could become a prominent aspect of the game if one or both sides opts for a territory-focused kicking approach.
Recent history bodes ominously for the Wallabies on two fronts: New Zealand’s record on home soil and their record on the back of a draw or loss.
New Zealand at home:
The All Blacks have won their last seventeen straight against the Wallabies on home soil. Against all teams New Zealand boast a 37-match unbeaten record at home. Of the two sides’ last ten meetings in New Zealand, the All Blacks won four by 1-12 points and six by 13+. If you look at just the six Tests at Eden Park during that time, the results become even more lopsided, with five of the All Blacks’ six wins over the Wallabies coming by 13+ points. The average winning margin for the All Blacks over the Wallabies at Eden Park since 2008 is 19.7 points.
New Zealand on the back of a draw or loss:
Last year the Wallabies drew the All Blacks 12-12 at ANZ Stadium only to be pummeled 51-20 at Eden Park a week later. A similar thing happened in 2011. The Wallabies won 25-20 at Suncorp Stadium only to be comprehensively beaten 20-6 at Eden Park in the World Cup. It seems that the All Blacks are at their most dominant after a loss or a draw to the Wallabies. Since 2005 the All Blacks have beaten Australia by an average of 19.9 points (home and away) in the fixtures immediately following a draw or a loss to the Wallabies. The lowest winning margin during that time was 14 points. You have to go back to 2001 for the last time the Wallabies defeated the All Blacks twice in succession.
Finally, if you combine the two scenarios of (1) the game being held at Eden Park and (2) Australia having won or drawn their previous fixture against the All Blacks, then the average winning margin for New Zealand is 22.5 points!
One caveat to the above stats is that rain is forecast on Saturday, which might diminish the chance of a blowout victory.
Looking at the head-to-head market, at the time of writing the best available win-draw-loss odds are:
In two-outcome markets the best available odds at the time of writing are:
Given the All Blacks’ dominant form at home, especially on the back of a win or loss, plus the Wallabies’ decision to start Pocock from the bench, I would back the All Blacks if I were to bet in the head-to-head market.
In the line market, most bookmakers have the All Blacks as 11.5 favourites. Given the Eden Park history I would be inclined to back the All Blacks -11.5 at 2.16 (Betfair – effectively 2.102 after commission).
In the winning margin market the best available odds at the time of writing are:
New Zealand By 13+ – 2.10 (Centrebet)
New Zealand By 1-12 – 2.70 (bet365)
Draw – 48.00 (Betfair – effectively 45.65 after commission)
Australia By 1-12 – 6.00 (bet365)
Australia By 13+ – 23.00 (Palmerbet)
If you fancy Australia’s chances, the Australia 1-12 selection looks to be superior value to Australia in the head-to-head. You have to go back to 1994 for the last time the All Blacks lost by 13+ at home. Since 1998 they haven’t lost by more than 5 points on home soil so you might even prefer Australia 1-5 at 10.00 (bet365), especially given the weather forecast.
If you fancy New Zealand, my expected winning margin is 14 points, so it’s a toss up between 13+ at 2.10 or the higher 2.70 odds for 1-12. I’ll let you to decide!