The Wallabies run out in Brisbane this Saturday under a new coach. A dismal showing during the British and Irish Lions Tour meant an early exit for Robbie Deans. Ex-Queensland Reds director of rugby, Ewen McKenzie, now has the job of trying to put things back together in the Australian national rugby setup, with his first hurdle coming this Saturday as his charges take on the top ranked side in the world in the opening game of the Rugby Championship. The All Blacks looked the complete package during the June internationals, with three convincing victories over France. The most convincing of those three, a 30-0 hiding dished out to Les Bleus in Christchurch, was achieved without both Dan Carter and Richie McCaw. The All Blacks went unbeaten in the Rugby Championship last year, claiming the inaugural bragging rights, but this season they face the unpredictability of a new Wallaby coach as well as a more settled Springbok outfit. This could be an interesting season for Southern Hemisphere rugby.
To Win (80mins)
New Zealand 9/20
Australia (+5.5) 9/10
New Zealand (-6.5) 1/1
There are five uncapped players in the squad for this Saturday’s clash with the mighty All Blacks, as Matt Toomua makes his debut in the number ten jersey. Four of his fellow uncapped ACT Brumbies team mates, Scott Sio, Scott Fardy, Nic White and Tevita Kuridrani, have been named on the bench. It’s a total of eight changes to the Wallaby side that finished off the British and Irish Lions Tour, as Ben Mowen shifts across to number eight, while failed flyhalf James O’Connor moves to the wing. Other changes include prop James Slipper, lock Rob Simmons and flanks Hugh McMeniman and Michael Hooper, creating a new look forward pack for the home side.
The All Blacks have had to deal with the loss of Dan Carter and Wyatt Crockett to injury for the opening clash of the Rugby Championship. Aaron Cruden has proved on several occasions that he is more than capable of taking over the coveted All Black flyhalf spot, and he might not be willing to let it go so easily when Carter returns to fitness. Veteran Richie McCaw makes his reintroduction to the international stage this Saturday after a six month sabbatical, having only played a couple of games for the Crusaders off the bench in the knockout stages of Super Rugby since hanging up his boots after the All Blacks went belly up against England during their end of year tour.
VERDICT: All Blacks (-6.5) 1/1
It is hard for to me to believe that Ewen McKenzie has been able to sort out all the problems that were so evident in the Australian national setup during the Lions Tour in such a short amount of time at the helm. It was a Kiwi side that secured the Super Rugby title, and it was the All Blacks that had the most impressive showing during the June internationals. The All Blacks by 8.
Think we’ve got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this is going to play out.