The final round of the Rugby Championship has arrived with a title race starting with Bledisloe’s second Test at Eden Park.
The dust has barely settled since the All Blacks’ controversial victory at Bledisloe I in Melbourne. Everything is set for another thrilling clash to close out the most intriguing championship since its inauguration in 2012.
New Zealand are the highest ranked team, only ahead of the Springboks on points difference with one game to play.
Sam Whitelock leads the All Blacks in the absence of Sam Cane after the skipper was ruled out with a concussion. This opens the door to an exciting backline of Ardie Savea, Dalton Papali’i and Akira Ioane who could have a huge impact on the clash.
The Wallabies were forced into their own back row reshuffle with Rob Leota with a ruptured Achilles tendon. The tireless Harry Wilson starts at number eight, with Rob Valetini moving down the flank alongside Pete Samu in a deadly-looking loose threesome.
The test takes place at Eden Park, the spiritual home of the All Blacks, adding to the spectacle that awaits rugby fans. Everything points to a vintage Bledisloe Cup clash as New Zealand push for the Rugby League title and Australia seek revenge.
The last time they met
Last week’s Bledisloe test sparked controversy as referee Mathieu Raynal blasted Bernard Foley for wasting time in the final minute, only for the All Blacks to steal the game, winning 39-37. The All Blacks quickly came out of the blocks with a fourth-minute try from Samisoni Taukei’aho converted by Richie Mo’unga. The New Zealand fly-half exchanged penalties with Foley before Rob Valetini crashed in the 26th minute for a converted try. Once again it was the All Blacks with a quick start after the break as Taukei’aho grabbed his brace as Mo’unga forced himself into the conversion before scoring his own try in the 52nd minute, closely followed by Will Jordan scoring a scintillating. try three minutes later.
It was all Australia after that as they scored three converted tries thanks to a brace from Andrew Kellaway and a five from Pete Samu to close the game. Mo’unga added a penalty before scrum-half Nic White himself struck a long-range penalty to put the Wallabies ahead with minutes to play. Jordie Barrett scored the winning try following the controversial decision to win the match for New Zealand. Bledisloe I was a classic in every sense of the word.
what they said
All Blacks full-back Beauden Barrett believes the week of preparation has been a chance for his side to expel the complacency that nearly cost Bledisloe I the win.
“It’s an opportunity for us to look at ourselves in the mirror and our preparation after being too complacent after taking a lead like we did,” he said.
“There are a few boys who are a bit irritable at the moment which is great. That’s where you want to be on a Monday, not feeling comfortable at all and having a lot of benefits at camp.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie hit back at Rieko Ioane, who took issue with the Australians advancing in boomerang form while the All Blacks performed the haka.
“I know Rieko Ioane had a lot to say to our boys after the last try, telling Folau Fainga’a that he had disrespected the haka,” he told reporters.
“Which is a bit strange because, as New Zealanders know, when a team does a haka, you respond with a haka; we don’t have the luxury of responding with a haka.
Players to watch
Beauden Barrette returns to the starting XV at the back, where he has more time and space to punch holes in the defensive line. The playmaker showed just how deadly he can be at 15 in his cameo last week as he made Will Jordan go for a try with a dink on the defensive line. Barrett operating in tandem with Richie Mo’unga is a sight to behold. Expect the pair to keep the Wallabies honest on Saturday.
A nice chip on top by Barrett! ?
↳ First test of the Bledisloe Cup LIVE NOW in 4K UHD, on Stan Sport.#StanSportFR #BledisloeCup #AUSvNZL pic.twitter.com/4wENeQTGYg
— Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) September 15, 2022
Captain of the Blues Dalton Papali’i was unlucky not to have played more black this year after a great Super Rugby Pacific campaign where he showed his growth as a player and leader. Tireless in his efforts, burly with the ball in hand and fierce defender, it is Papali’i who will ensure the perfect balance of the loose trio this weekend in potentially wet conditions.
The All Blacks enjoy a superior second-tier pairing, especially with the banning of Wallaby Darcy Swain, led by alternate captain Sam Whitelock and his partner Brodie Retallick. If the pair can lead the lineup and execute their fundamentals in the engine room, the All Blacks could have the platform to attack and exploit the Wallabies.
The robust wing of the Wallabies Marika Koroibete was kept quiet last week aside from a monstrous hit on Caleb Clarke. However, the Fijian-born star cannot be expected to remain silent for too long and will be looking to make an impact in this Bledisloe test. The flyer is blessed with extreme pace and agility, given its massive frame, and is always a try threat. Expect the same on Saturday.
number eight Harry Wilson returns and will balance the Wallabies trio with an outrageous work ethic on both sides of the ball. The Reds star is a player who will inevitably empty the tank. Expect nothing different from Wilson on Saturday, who sets up an intriguing game against the All Blacks’ Ardie Savea.
Rob Valetini has easily been one of the Wallabies’ standouts in this year’s Rugby League, largely due to his ball carrying and, in particular, his yards after contact. It was in Melbourne, where he crashed out for an important try as part of that game. On the flank this week, Valetini will benefit from a shared workload with Wilson.
Bobby V enters! ?
? @9Gem & @StanSportAU#AUSvNZL #Wallabies @eToroAU @CadburyAU pic.twitter.com/UItg0VkaHP
— Wallabies (@wallabies) September 15, 2022
Fly-halfs play an important role in the game, from playmaking to play management to base kicking, and as Bernard Foley discovered last week, every play counts as a 10. in rugby union.
It’s no secret that At Richie Mo’unga’s return to the starting line revived the form of the All Blacks. The crusader has the supreme ability to read the state of the game and play accordingly, managing key moments against the attacking mindset of his counterpart, Beauden Barrett. However, Mo’unga can activate his offensive flair in a jiffy, which makes him extremely dangerous. The 28-year-old has the unique opportunity in this test to use the Barrett brothers in and around him to share attacking and striking loads, freeing up the pivot to manage the game and make clear decisions. Mo’unga, with his support around him, could well be the difference at Eden Park this weekend.
Contrary to what media attention suggests this week, Foley had a great game for the Wallabies until the time-wasting call. The veteran kicked out of the hand well, carried the ball strongly to the line and even played Andrew Kellaway for a crucial try after halftime. For the most part, the fly-half was decisive and clear in his decision-making. However, conquering the All Blacks in their hallowed Eden Park requires absolute precision from critical decision makers, and the ‘Iceman’ will have to command the play if his side are to claim victory.
The Wallabies played terrific rugby last week and deserved the win, but the All Blacks at Eden Park are a huge challenge, especially as they push for the Rugby Championship Title. New Zealand have the second-place advantage; if they can use it to exploit the Wallabies, it could cause problems for the Australians. That being said, Rennie’s men will come out of the blocks with a point to prove in a guaranteed thriller. The All Blacks win by 10 with no bonus points.
2022: New Zealand won 39-37 in Melbourne
2021: New Zealand won 38-21 in Perth
2021: New Zealand won 57-22 in Auckland
2020: Australia won 24-22 in Brisbane
2020: New Zealand won 43-5 in Sydney
2020: New Zealand won 27-7 in Auckland
2020: Draw 16-16 in Wellington
2019: New Zealand won 36-0 in Auckland
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Sam Whitelock (c) , 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot
Substitutions: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 23 Sevu Reece
Australia: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Pete Samu, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 James Slipper (c)
Reserves: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Pone Ma’ai’ai, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Nic White, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia
Date: Saturday September 24
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
To start up: 7:05 p.m. local time (8:05 a.m. BST, 7:05 a.m. GMT)
Arbitrator: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
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