Australia vs New Zealand | 18 August | ANZ Stadium, Sydney | 12:05
To Win (80mins)
New Zealand 9/20
Australia (+5.5) 9/10
New Zealand (-6.5) 9/10
Australian Rugby has just come off the back of arguably it's worst ever Super Rugby campaign and will be hoping that by condensing the relative squads from Super Rugby, they will be able to put together a side that can compete with the sheer depth of the South Africans and New Zealanders. Robbie Deans was ironically the coaching coordinator of the New Zealand team when they finally regained the Cup in 2003. The team has retained some continuity from the Wales series but they only contain 13 of the 22 players who faced the All Blacks in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup last year.
Injuries to Pat McCabe and Wycliff Palu have seen the inclusion of Dave Dennis and Anthony Fainga’a into the starting line-up. The pack reshuffle sees Scott Higginbotham move to the base of a pack that has come in for a lot of scrutiny in the media. The inexperience of the likes of Timani and Kepu and the inability of the forwards to consistently secure first phase ball, especially since their shock home defeat to Scotland, has led many pundits to highlight the pack as their potential downfall in this year’s Rugby Championship.
Quade Cooper’s continued absence from the team leaves the prospective selection headache for Robbie Deans for another week, as in-form Berrick Barnes retains the number 10 jersey, where he won two consecutive man-of-the-matches against the Welsh earlier this year. Drew Mitchell makes a return to the bench while it will be up to Rob Horne and Anthony Fainga’a to contain the lethal running and offloading threat that is Sonny Bill Williams.
The All Blacks are to be without the dependable Conrad Smith for the first two games of the competition, which means that the precociously divisive figure of Sonny Bill Williams will most likely be retained for the first two matches before he heads off to Japan. The player’s nomadic presence in world rugby has seen him accomplish the feat of being capped 17 times for his country, in so doing winning the World Cup, and win the Super 15 title with the Chiefs in the following season, before subsequently departing for Japan. Australia will be careful to note that the current world champions are anything but a one man show.
With the highly influential figures of Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw, New Zealand possess two of Rugby Union's greatest ever players. Blues prop Charlie Faumuina makes his debut in the squad while Cory Jane returns from injury to replace Zac Guildford. Liam Messam, the co-captain of the title winning Chiefs, is recalled into a squad which seems to have a perfect balance between youth and experience.
VERDICT: New Zealand 9/20
As already explained, the Wallaby's lack of depth, especially with key injuries, sees them take the field at a disadvantage from the get-go. Add to this their less-than McCawesome pack and they find themselves precariously poised. I'm backing the All Blacks and you should do the same. While you're at it, take them on the handicap, as the outright doesn't offer the greatest value. My score prediction for this encounter reads: Australia 15 New Zealand 32, and so I'll be taking the All Blacks at -9.5 with odds of 14/10. Now that's value.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook now!
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