All Blacks

Bledisloe 1 Preview: Wallabies v All Blacks

Bledisloe 1 Preview: Wallabies v All Blacks

A lot has changed in the 12 months since the Wallabies played their last test – a crushing World Cup Quarterfinal defeat to England in Oita, Japan.

Words like “Social distancing.” And “Tik Tok” are now a part of our vocabularies, Carole Baskin is somehow a household name, and hand sanitiser has become a part of everyday life.

2020 has not been all bad, one bright spot has been the drought that crippled the East Coast of Australia for the best part of five years has broken, with bumper crops and green pastures now seen all the way  from Ballarat to Dalby.

One drought over, one more to go.

On Sunday afternoon the Wallabies kick their 2020 season off when they begin their search for greener pastures and attempt to break a 17-year Bledisloe curse. Has 2020 got one final surprise up its sleeve?

On the Rugby front, the last 12 months have also been filled with significant change.

It started when England flipped the script on the world order by outsmarting the All Blacks in the Semi-Finals of RWC 2019, only for South Africa to do the same to them a week later and ensure the Webb Ellis trophy returned to the rainbow nation.

Closer to home, it has been somewhat of a dawning of a new age for Australian Rugby. We have a new administration, a new domestic only Super Rugby competition, and perhaps most importantly a new coach and coaching staff have taken over the reins of the Wallabies. All these factors have helped to bring in a renewed sense of optimism in the national team.

This reinvigorated Wallaby set up, under the guidance of new coach Dave Rennie, now faces its first test. There are no home June internationals against a tired Northern Hemisphere rival or a depleted Pacific Island side for Rennie to ease himself into life as an international head coach. Instead, less than 20 km from where the New Zealander turned Australian Rugby saviour was born and raised, Rennie will start his journey as Wallabies coach against a fire-up All Blacks side eager to also put 2019 behind them.

Wallabies Coach Dave Rennie will be making his home in Queensland

In Rennie we trust…for now

Team Analysis

True to his word, Dave Rennie has picked his side on form and subsequently it looks like the most balanced Wallabies XV in some time. Only two men remain in the starting side from the fateful night in Oita – skipper Micheal Hooper and reigning John Eales medallist, Marika Korobiete. Three debutants have been named for their first international caps, with a 4th, Noah Lolesio, potentially in line for a debut off the bench.

Super Rugby AU player of the season, Taniela Tupou gets the nod to start at tighthead prop and will pack down with Brumbies Folau Faingaa and James Slipper. After an impressive Super Rugby season, Matt Phillip returns to the international fold for his first test since 2017 paired with Lukhan Salakai-Loto in the second row. It is a special night for both flankers. Boom 20-year-old Harry Wilson has been picked for his first test at blindside flanker and on the opposite side of the scrum, the Micheal Hooper will lead his side out for his 100 test match. Pete Samu deservedly gets the nod at number 8 for what will be his first test in over two years.

It is a similar mix of youth and experience in the backs. Thirty year old’s Nic White and James O’Connor are back playing in Australia and are paired in the halves for the first time. Unfortunately Jordan Petaia was unable to recover from injury in time to Rennie has opted for the hard-hitting centre pairing featuring vice-captain Matt Toomua and the second debutant on the team sheet Hunter Paisami. The back three is filled with genuine pace, Filipo Daugunu starts on the right-wing in his test debut, while fellow Fijian flyer Korobiete predictably gets the nod on the left. Tom Banks will start as the custodian at the back with Dane Haylett-Petty also ruled out with injury.

Ian Foster’s first test XV features nine players from the Semi-final loss to England. It’s an experienced front row with Joe Moody and Ofa Tuungafasi the props and test match number 50 for Codie Taylor who was named at hooker. With Brodie Retallick off on a year sabbatical in Japan, Patrick Tuipulotu gets the nod to partner Sam Whitelock in the second row. Sam Cane’s stint as fulltime captain begins with the Chief’s workhorse named at openside flanker shifting Ardie Savea to the back of the scrum. Shannon Frizell has been named at blindside flanker following an impressive Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign with the Highlanders.

As expected, Foster has stuck with the controversial two playmaker system naming Richie Mo’unga at 10 and Beauden Barrett at 15. Aaron Smith will start his 93rd test at halfback with Jack Goodhue and Rieko Ioane forming an explosive centre pairing. The ever-reliable George Bridge gets the nod on the left wing with perhaps the most surprising selection from Foster – Jordie Barrett named on the right. Three debutants have been called onto the bench lock Tupou Vaa’i, loose forward Hoskins Sotutu and winger Caleb Clarke.

Harry Wilson gets his revenge

Harry Wilson plays hard

Teams


WALLABIES

1 James Slipper
2 Folau Fainga’a
3 Taniela Tupou
4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
5 Matt Philip
6 Harry Wilson
7 Michael Hooper [c]
8 Pete Samu

9 Nic White
10 James O’Connor
11 Marika Koroibete
12 Matt To’omua
13 Hunter Paisami
14 Filipo Daugunu
15 Tom Banks

16 Jordan Uelese
17 Scott Sio
18 Allan Alaalatoa
19 Rob Simmons
20 Rob Valetini
21 Jake Gordon
22 Noah Lolesio
23 Reece Hodge

NEW ZEALAND

1 Joe Moody
2 Codie Taylor
3. Ofa Tuungafasi
4. Patrick Tuipulotu
5. Samuel Whitelock
6. Shannon Frizell
7. Sam Cane [c]
8. Ardie Savea

9. Aaron Smith
10. Richie Mo’unga
11. George Bridge
12. Jack Goodhue
13. Rieko Ioane
14. Jordie Barrett
15. Beauden Barrett

16. Dane Coles
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe
18. Nepo Laulala
19. Tupou Vaa’i
20. Hoskins Sotutu
21. TJ Perenara
22. Anton Lienert-Brown
23. Caleb Clarke

MATCH DEETS

Kick off: Sky Stadium Wellington, Sunday 11 October 2:00pm AEDT
Referee: Paul Williams
AR1: Ben O’Keefe
AR2: Angus Gardner
TMO: Mike Fraser

Key Match-up 

Michael Hooper 

Michael Hooper – Centurion

Sam Cane vs Micheal Hooper. 

With so many selection dilemmas for both sides there are many intriguing one-on-one battles on Sunday afternoon, but you can’t go past the constants on the side of the scrum as the crucial match-up in this one.

It’s hard to argue that any two players worldwide possess the consistency and toughness of the two respective skippers.

It is set to be a momentous occasion for Micheal Hooper who becomes the youngest ever player to notch 100 tests. Being named captain at the tender age of 22 is testament to his leadership qualities, and he was the obvious choice to continue captaining the national side under Rennie. He will go down as one of our most celebrated Wallabies but for all the John Eales Medals and Matt Burke Cups Hooper has racked up, there is no doubt the boy from Manly would trade them all to be the first Australian to lift the Bledisloe cup since 2002. With the second test confirmed for Eden Park next week, a venue Australia haven’t won at since 1986, the Wallabies must get off to a flyer in Wellington on Sunday, and a lot rests on the sizable shoulders of their captain.

By the same token, Sam Cane will be desperate to ensure his reign as All Blacks captain does not start by relinquishing their unprecedented hold on the oversized trophy. Cane was somewhat of a controversial captaincy selection from Ian Foster and the All Blacks management. Whilst his leadership qualities cannot be denied, it was whether or not he was a definite starter that had people questioning if perhaps Foster should have instead turned to someone like Sam Whitelock. Afterall Cane came off the bench when the All Blacks were trounced by England last start. Foster has been able to accommodate Cane’s most prominent challenger, Ardie Savea, in the starting XV by shifting the Hurricanes enforcer to number 8., Cane will be out to prove the doubters wrong and put the misery of 2019 behind him when he leads his troops onto Sky Stadium on Sunday afternoon

Bold Prediction

Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes

All Blacks – still favorites (Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes)

You have to go right back to 2001 to find the last time the All Blacks and Wallabies played a day time Test on New Zealand soil; coincidentally this was also the last time the Wallabies defeated the All Blacks in New Zealand winning 23-15 in Dunedin.

Make no mistake, despite all the changes since the World Cup this is a good Wallabies side and the well-balanced nature of the run on team will be a welcome sight to Australian fans. The forward pack can boast a rock-solid scrum, four genuine lineout options and eight bodies that can bend the New Zealand defensive line. The backs will be led by an experienced halves pairing and possess some genuine game-breakers out wide. There is undoubtedly the ability there for the men in gold to pull off one of the more unlikely of victories. However a lack of cohesion will play against, and I expect the Wallabies performances will improve week on week throughout the Bledisloe series.

Still smiting from the hiding England inflicted upon them just under 12 months ago and having surrendered the world number 1 ranking to the Springboks the All Blacks have named an imposing, in-form side that will be out to make a statement. The home ground advantage and extra month of preparation also favours the hosts and whilst they will win, I expect they won’t have it all their own way come Sunday afternoon.

All Blacks by 9….

 

All Blacks

A Bush League Opinionist

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