Kiwis look to retain Bledisloe Cup for another year
August 22, 2013
It was far too easy for New Zealand last weekend © Getty Images
New Zealand will look to secure the Bledisloe Cup for the eleventh successive season when they come up against the Wallabies in Wellington on Saturday.
Such has been the dominance by the Kiwis over their trans-Tasman rivals that neither a Tweet nor a Facebook post has ever been written celebrating the Wallabies winning the coveted piece of silverware in the annual match-up between the two sides. And despite Australia changing Robbie Deans for Ewen McKenzie, he failed to inspire the Wallabies to a win in Sydney last weekend.
Sydney was painted black by the Kiwis as they ran in six tries against the Wallabies with Ben Smith bagging an impressive hat-trick. There were notable performances all over the field from New Zealand with Steven Luatua excelling at blindside, Aaron Cruden seemlessly stepping into Dan Carter's shoes and Conrad Smith managing the game with his usual effortless style in the centres.
New Zealand v Australia: Head-to-Head
But the All Blacks are currently facing an injury crisis at fly-half of 2011 World Cup proportions. While Steve Hansen has opted against picking up the phone and dialling Stephen Donald's number, he is now down to his fourth and fifth options with Carter, Cruden and Beauden Barrett all crocked.
This may give some hope to the Wallabies but apart from openside Michael Hooper, they were largely off the pace last weekend as they struggled to get through the All Blacks' organised defence. However, they still have stacks of ability in their ranks and you can be sure they will try to get the ridiculously talented Israel Folau plenty of ball on Saturday.
New Zealand - Player to Watch: All eyes will be on Ben Smith. He makes rugby look so easy and put the Wallabies to the sword with three tries last weekend.
New Zealand - Team News: Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett are both out injured so Steve Hansen has opted to give Tom Taylor his Test debut. With Taylor in at fly-half, Colin Slade is named on the bench as his back-up. Brodie Retallick is also handed a start in place of the injured Luke Romano. In other changes to the replacements, Charles Piutau, Jeremy Thrush, Dane Coles and Wyatt Crockett are all called up.
Australia - Player to Watch: Jesse Mogg was fairly average in his first Test start last weekend. But McKenzie has kept the faith and expect a better showing from the gangly Brumbies fullback.
Australia - Team News: With Hugh McMeniman ruled out for six months through injury, Scott Fardy is named at blindside. And in the only other change to the Wallabies' 23-man squad, Kane Douglas replaces Fardy on their bench.
Key Battle: It is arguably the most inexperienced match-up at fly-half in Bledisloe history. Taylor is making his debut while Matt Toomua had that honour for the Wallabies last weekend. Will the pressure get to them? Or will they flourish under the watchful eye of the partisan Wellington crowd? All the answers will be there to see on Saturday.
Trivia: Richie McCaw's try last weekend saw him become the all-time leading scorer in match-ups between the two teams.
All Blacks debutant Tom Taylor © Getty Images
Stats: Tony Woodcock will win his 100th cap for the All Blacks on Saturday and becomes the fifth prop in the history of the game to achieve the feat of reaching a century of caps. He follows in the footsteps of Jason Leonard, John Hayes, Gethin Jenkins and Andrea Lo Cicero.
Betting: You can get odds of 9/2 on the All Blacks to replicate last weekend's performance and win by an 18-point margin with bet365. The same odds can also be found on Richie McCaw to score at any time during the match which has to be worth a look at.
"He is mentally tough and plays the game with a lot of confidence and maturity. These factors, along with his assured goal kicking under pressure, has made this an easy selection. We have every faith that he will handle the occasion with aplomb."
"You can't fudge experience and I know this group learned a great deal from last week and will be much better for the experience on Saturday night."
Prediction: The All Blacks will tie up the Bledisloe Cup for another year with a comfortable victory of around 15 points
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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