PREVIEW: All Blacks v Australia (MCG)
Analysis can only take pundits so far when it comes to Bledisloe Cup games between the All Blacks and Australia, and the home team's desire to end their losses in the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship will add an edge to their rivalry in Melbourne on Saturday.
Match Details: Australia v New Zealand, 9.45 pm NZT, July 29, 2023, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Won: Australia 45, New Zealand 122, Drawn 8
Last time: Australia 14-40 New Zealand, September 24, 2022, Eden Park
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Australia, having lost their first two games of the Rugby Championship, is looking to avoid only its second winless tournament. They were winless earlier when losing four games in the Tri-Nations in 2005. New Zealand have won both their games this year in the Championship and their last five games against Australia.
It's a measure of the developing depth in the All Blacks' locking ranks that the stock market hasn't plummeted, and the country hasn't gone into a spin cycle with returning veteran Sam Whitelock coming off the bench for the 23rd time in his 144 Test career on Saturday. Brodie Retallick and Scott Barrett are the starters in Melbourne, with Retallick playing his 102nd Test and Barrett making his 61st appearance. Coach Ian Foster said, "It's a great situation to be in." Retaining the pair was also a reward for the growing combination seen against South Africa, and he wanted to keep growing that. A lot of attention was paid to who might lock the scrum, but the three named were backed by Josh Lord and Tupou Va'ai, who had also been performing well.
First five-eighths Carter Gordon's first Test start will be a little more relaxed than his Test debut when replacing centre Len Ikitau against Argentina in Sydney two weeks back, a position he was not used to playing. He will be looking for his forward pack to give him the quality ball necessary for him to get control of the game. The lessons from those first two losses have been hit home. "Our breakdown wasn't where we needed it to be. We had a lot of breakdown errors, a lot of turnovers. So the last few weeks have been making sure what we're really smashing down on that detail at the breakdown, and we've been working pretty hard at that. We want to make sure we're not leaving any stone unturned. We want to make sure we've got no regrets. Test match rugby is very different to Super Rugby. It's a lot more territory based. And we know that, so we're going to do everything we can to win these contests."
The All Blacks have managed an attacking ruck speed of 2.96 seconds during the Championship, the best of the four teams, while Australia at 3.61s was the slowest. Australia has also made the fewest entries (10) into the opposing 22m area of the four teams but has achieved four points for each entry which is the most effective of the tour teams.
New Zealand have won nine games in succession and has lost away from home only once since the loss to South Africa in Mbombela at the start of its 2022 campaign. A win would be only the second time they have been unbeaten in the Championship or Tri Nations in a World Cup year. The last occasion was in 2003. (Opta)
TEAMS (caps in brackets):
1. Ethan de Groot (15) 2. Codie Taylor (78) 3. Tyrel Lomax (25) 4. Brodie Retallick (101) 5. Scott Barrett (60) 6. Shannon Frizell (27) 7. Dalton Papali’i (24) 8. Ardie Savea (72 - captain) 9. Aaron Smith (116) 10. Richie Mo’unga (46) 11. Mark Telea (3) 12. Jordie Barrett (50) 13. Rieko Ioane (61) 14. Will Jordan (22) 15. Beauden Barrett (114)
Reserves: 16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (22) 17. Ofa Tu’ungfasi (51) 18. Nepo Laulala (47) 19. Samuel Whitelock (143) 20. Luke Jacobson (12) 21. Cam Roigard * 22. Anton Lienert-Brown (60) 23. Caleb Clarke (17)
1. Angus Bell (21) 2. David Porecki (12) 3. Allan Alaalatoa (acting captain) (66)
4. Nick Frost (10) 5. Will Skelton (26) 6. Jed Holloway (11) 7. Tom Hooper (1) 8. Rob Valetini (32) 9. Tate McDermott (23) 10. Carter Gordon (2) 11. Marika Koroibete (53) 12. Samu Kerevi (43) 13. Jordan Petaia (25) 14. Mark Nawaqanitawase (4) 15. Andrew Kellaway (21)
Reserves: 16. Jordan Uelese (17) 17. James Slipper (129) 18. Taniela Tupou (47) 19. Richie Arnold (2) 20. Rob Leota (14) 21. Nic White (61) 22. Quade Cooper (78) 23. Izaia Perese (3)
Thank you to everyone who hosted us across Aotearoa last weekend as we delivered the first of our benches to the nation 🖤— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 25, 2023
Check out our bench map to find out where your local bench is 🙌#benchforall pic.twitter.com/njgBpKdjz4