The Ardie Savea-less All Blacks could be ripe for the picking when they take on the Wallabies at the Marvel Stadium on Thursday in the fifth round of the Rugby Championship
Australia v New Zealand
Thursday 15 September
Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
To Win Match
Australia 32/10 | Draw 28/1 | New Zealand 2/9
Australia (-10.5) 9/10 | New Zealand (-10.5) 9/10
The tournament – and by extension the global rugby landscape – has never been this closely contested. While there is probably daylight between France and Ireland and the rest, the southern hemisphere sides, along with the likes of England, are all seemingly capable of beating any other team on any given day.
New Zealand are top of the standings, albeit just one-point better off South Africa, Australia and Argentina, who are all locked on nine-points apiece. There’s never been a more exciting finish to a Championship campaign, with the top dog only set to be decided at the conclusion of the Boks/ Argentina game at Kings Park next week.
The current state of the world game has also meant the Bledisloe Cup series is being eyed with renewed interest. Both the Aussies and Kiwis have been consistently inconsistent for some time now, but there seems to be real optimism within the Wallaby camp that they can win back the Cup for the first time since 2002.
Bernard “The Iceman” Foley starts at 10 after a Noah Lolesio concussion in the former’s first game for the side since the 2019 World Cup. It remains to be seen just how up to speed the 71-cap veteran will be given he’s been plying his trade in Japan since then, but Dave Rennie doesn’t exactly have too many other options.
The ABs are vulnerable too though; Savea will sit this one out as he awaits the birth of his third child. The 28-year-old has been a colossus for New Zealand this year and has at times seemingly single-handedly dug his side out of the dirt. His physicality, work-rate and leadership qualities will be sorely missed. The return of Big Brodie Retallick is a boon for the side though.
Ian Foster’s bunch did well to avenge their third-round loss to Argentina with a 53-3 thumping of the same opponents a week later, but there’s no telling how they’ll turn up given the turbulent nature of their results over the past year. They do have the comfort of knowing Bledisloe 2 will be played at Eden Park to fall back on, but a Rennie ambush could be on the cards here.
Verdict: Australia 32/10
Back the Wallabies to come good in Melbourne and make it 1-0 in the Bledisloe heading into the final weekend.
Australia: 15-Andrew Kellaway, 14-Tom Wright, 13-Len Ikitau, 12-Lalakai Foketi, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Bernard Foley, 9-Jake Gordon, 8-Rob Valetini, 7-Pete Samu, 6-Rob Leota, 5-Matt Philip, 4-Jed Holloway, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Dave Porecki, 1-James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 16-Folau Fainga’a, 17-Scott Sio, 18-Pone Fa’amausili, 19-Darcy Swain, 20-Fraser McReight, 21-Nic White, 22-Reece Hodge, 23-Jordan Petaia.
New Zealand: 15-Jordie Barrett, 14-Will Jordan, 13-Rieko Ioane, 12-David Havili, 11-Caleb Clarke, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Hoskins Sotutu, 7-Sam Cane (captain), 6-Scott Barrett, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Tyrel Lomax, 2-Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1-Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16-Dane Coles, 17-George Bower, 18-Fletcher Newell, 19-Akira Ioane, 20-Dalton Papali’i, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-Beauden Barrett, 23-Quinn Tupaea.