Pile into the ruck with Rugby Union tips for the opening Bledisloe Cup Test between the All Blacks and Wallabies in Wellington.
14:00 (AEDT), Sun 11th Oct @ Sky Stadium, Wellington
History: Played 166: New Zealand 115 V Australia 44 (7 Draws)
Last meeting: August 17, 2019: New Zealand 36 d Australia 0 at Eden Park
Final Thoughts: It’s been a long time coming, but the All Blacks and Wallabies will finally line up for their first Test match of 2020.
After a high-quality Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, a North v South blockbuster rep match and the opening rounds of the Mitre 10 Cup, the All Blacks have named a crack side for the Wellington clash.
Just five players in the Sam Cane-led line-up have played less than 30 Tests. The backline – led by Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett – is brimming with class and firepower. A seasoned front-row, a lock pairing of Patrick Tuipolotu and Sam Whitelock, and a loose trio of Cane, Shannon Frizell and Ardie Savea ensures a torrid afternoon ahead for the Australian pack.
The ABs’ bench features three debutants, along with champion players Dane Coles, TJ Perenara and Anton Lienert-Brown.
Dave Rennie’s first Wallabies side is less awe-inspiring. James O’Connor has won the No.10 battle, with Matt Toomua outside him. Centre Hunter Pasami is one of three Test rookies – all from the Reds – with winger Filipo Daugunu and flanker Harry Wilson.
The likes of captain Michael Hooper, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou and Pete Samu provide the underdogs’ engine-room with some experience and impact. Halfback Nic White is another of the senior brigade, while Tom Banks fills the key fullback spot.
While competitive, Super Rugby AU did not quite give the Australian players quite the same regular exposure to world-class opposition as the regular Super Rugby comp.
Wallabies’ bleak modern rugby history against archrivals
Australia have managed just three wins in their last 23 Tests against their overbearing neighbours. The Wallabies powered to a shock 47-26 win in Perth during last year’s Rugby Championship. But they were crushed 36-0 in a World Cup warm-up in Auckland. The ABs’ last four wins over the green-and-golds came by margins of 17-plus.
The All Blacks have won 23 consecutive Tests against the Wallabies on home soil. Australia last bagged a win across in the Tasman in 2001 in Dunedin – a year after they won the inaugural encounter between the nation at Wellington’s ‘Cake Tin’.
That famous John Eales-inspired victory was the Wallabies’ fourth in five visits to the capital. But they have lost all four Tests in the city since by an average margin of 18 points.
Unsurprisingly, the All Blacks are hot $1.11 favourites. Their combination of 1-15 brilliance and continuity and familiarity will be too much for the Wallabies. All signs point to the hosts covering the underdone, new-look underdogs comfortably.