PREVIEW: All Blacks v Australia (Dunedin)
Supporters will get a first glance at the All Blacks' short-term and longer-term futures when a side with 12 starting changes meets Australia in their second Bledisloe Cup Test of the season in Dunedin on Saturday afternoon.
Match Details: All Blacks v Australia, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, August 5, 2.35 pm
Won: All Blacks 123, Australia 45, Draws 8
Last time: Australia 7-38 New Zealand, Melbourne Cricket Ground, July 29, 2023
Referee: Karl Dickson
New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup for the 21st year and won the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship Test with a thumping 38-7 win in Melbourne's first Test of the Bledisloe double header last weekend. The Australians suffered injury problems, especially at tighthead prop, where co-captain Allan Alaalatoa and replacement Taniela Tupou had to leave the field. Alaalatoa will miss the Rugby World Cup, while Tupou is unfit to play in Dunedin.
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HOT HOUSE RUGBY
If one stadium can guarantee a fast-paced game, it is Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium - the only covered venue in New Zealand. And if playing a game at speed is the goal, then an All Blacks team in the shape of that chosen to play Australia on Saturday is an intriguing prospect. But before a pacy set of backs can run the ball, they need to have it presented suitably, and that will be the task of a pack down on its usual experience. However, the 455 caps represented by locks Sam Whitelock (144), Brodie Retallick (102), loose forwards Sam Cane (88) and Ardie Savea (73) and prop Nepo Laulala (48) will have to be the foundation in ensuring that ball is secured. Given all the talk about the breakdown being below par in Melbourne, that ensures debutant Samipeni Finau has a handful ahead of him. The scrum should be secure, given the Australian injury problems, and Tamaiti Williams could take a big step by imposing himself in that area. However, it may be in a free-flowing game that his ball-carrying ability has the most impact.
SPEED TO BURN
Knowing the Australians are just as capable of playing the running game as the All Blacks, there is pressure on a unit that has only 151 caps between them, 102 of those belonging to five-eighths Anton Lienert-Brown (61) and Damian McKenzie (41). The return of wing Leicester Fainga'anuku and the opportunity for centre Braydon Ennor are as intriguing as the inclusion of debutant Shaun Stevenson on the right wing. Add Will Jordan's placement in his favoured fullback role, and there is excitement about what this side might be capable of unleashing. But for all their attacking potential, Australia's capabilities will demand defensive strength, which will ultimately be the telling point for the All Blacks. It is a massive leap of faith for the selectors and a measure of the depth of the international squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup selection on Monday.
Australia coach Eddie Jones has labelled last week's 7-38 loss to the All Blacks as his side's 'regeneration' point. "Now it's about building on that with a new captain [Tate McDermott] and a new era in Australian Rugby. On Saturday night in Dunedin, we get an opportunity to continue our growth as a team."
Eddie Jones was the last Australian rugby coach to achieve a win on New Zealand soil – in Dunedin in 2001. It was a 23-15 win on the old Carisbrook ground and the first time Australia won at the ground. It was also the last day Test played at Carisbrook.
TEAMS (caps in brackets):
1. Tamaiti Williams (1) 2. Samisoni Taukei’aho (23) 3. Nepo Laulala (48) 4.Brodie Retallick (102) 5. Samuel Whitelock (144) 6. Samipeni Finau * 7. Sam Cane (88 – captain) 8. Ardie Savea (73) 9. Finlay Christie (16) 10. Damian McKenzie (41) 11. Leicester Fainga’anuku (2) 12. Anton Lienert-Brown (61) 13. Braydon Ennor (8) 14. Shaun Stevenson * 15. Will Jordan (23)
RESERVES: 16. Dane Coles (85) 17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (52) 18. Fletcher Newell (6) 19. Tupou Vaa’i (20) 20. Luke Jacobson (13)21. Aaron Smith (117) 22. Richie Mo’unga (47) 23. Dallas McLeod *
1. Angus Bell (22) 2. David Porecki (13) 3. Pone Fa'amausili (4) 4. Nick Frost (11) 5. Richie Arnold (3) 6. Tom Hooper (2) 7. Fraser McReight (11) 8. Rob Valetini (33) 9. Tate McDermott (24) 10. Carter Gordon (3) 11. Marika Koroibete (54) 12. Samu Kerevi (44) 13. Jordan Petaia (26) 14. Mark Nawaqanitawase (5) 15. Andrew Kellaway (22)
RESERVES: 16. Jordan Uelese (18) 17. James Slipper (130) 18. Zane Nonggorr (1) 19. Will Skelton (27) 20. Rob Leota (15) 21. Nic White (62) 22. Quade Cooper (79) 23. Izaia Perese (4)