The All Blacks can seal their 11th-straight Bledisloe Cup win with victory over the Wallabies tonight in Wellington. We’ll have live scores and commentary from 5.35pm AEST.
After an evenly contested first half, the Wallabies had looked well and truly in the game at 25-19 down with 40 minutes to play.
Minutes into the second half that margin was narrowed to just three points, and a sizeable home crowd at ANZ Stadium began to consider a major upset.
But the All Blacks’ irrepressible second stanza, in which they put on 22 points to run out 47-29 winners, enough to ensure they’d head back across the Tasman as the firm favourite to lift the Bledisloe Cup – again.
That said, the build-up to tonight’s game hasn’t gone exactly to script for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
The loss of Aaron Cruden to a knee injury, in addition to the unavailability of Dan Carter, means Hansen has had to call on the uncapped Tom Taylor to fill the breach, overlooking the more-experienced Colin Slade.
In addition, Brodie Retallick has been named in the starting XV for the injured Luke Romano after he suffered an adductor tear and was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament.
For the Wallabies – despite Ewen McKenzie coming in for his first game as coach – it was more of the same.
Australia’s woes at the first five position continued with an up-and-down debut by Matt Toomua while McKenzie’s back three of Jesse Mogg, James O’Connor and Israel Folau also struggled to make an impact.
On top of that, the Wallabies’ scrum continued to demonstrate how far they have to improve to match the world’s best forwards.
But an unwavering McKenzie has resisted the temptation to make mass changes to the starting XV, making only the one switch.
Hugh McMeniman’s season-ending shoulder injury has forced him to miss, meaning Scott Fardy will come in at blindside.
Should the Wallabies somehow manage to pull an upset tonight, they will do so in the face of a poor recent record in New Zealand.
The Wallabies last tasted success against the All Blacks on New Zealand all the way back in 2000, when John Eales’ penalty after the siren gave Australia a famous 24-23 victory.
Since then they’ve lost to the All Blacks 14 times in New Zealand, with the most recent encounter at the ‘Cake Tin’ being a 33-6 All Blacks in back in 2009.
But the Wallabies will have taken confidence in the fact the All Blacks will be starting an untested flyhalf in a Bledisloe Cup game, and if McKenzie’s men can get at the All Blacks’ ten they might keep it closer than first thought.