The Wallabies have suffered a massive loss to the All Blacks in the first match of the Bledisloe Cup, going down 42-8.
New Zealand 42
The first game of the 2016 Rugby Championship sees old foes the Wallabies host the All Blacks as the home side aim to get their Bledisloe Cup campaign off on the right foot. Join The Roar for all the action from 7:30pm (AEST).
In the middle of an Olympic Games, rugby has struggled for traction and column inches, although ironically, Olympics overload now has many fans on either side of the Tasman ready and eager for battle.
Both sides have had a non-standard lead-in too; the Wallabies enjoying an extended period in a training camp, and the All Blacks arriving in Sydney four days earlier than usual.
A war of words even threatened to erupt between the coaches, although it amounted to nothing more than mild handbags; both coaches perhaps recognising that trash talking and pseudo mind-games are best left to ex-Randwick hookers.
After a 0-3 series loss to England, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika called for heavy artillery in the form of his experienced Wallabies playing in the northern hemisphere. Three of them start, all in the backline; Will Genia, Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper.
In the forwards, the David Pocock/Michael Hooper loose forward combination is restored, although Cheika sprung a mild surprise with his choice of Ben McCalman at blindside breakaway, instead of his regular No.8 slot.
For the All Blacks, Ben Smith was eager this week to stress how much importance his team was placing on taking the right attitude into the match. They are yet to settle into a regular midfield combination to replace Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, but Ryan Crotty is an underrated player.
Beauden Barrett and Sam Cane won the coveted, highly contested starting spots over Aaron Cruden and Ardie Savea respectively, although expect to see all four in action at some point. First-choice hooker Dane Coles misses, still not 100 per cent following his recent painful rib injury.
Steve Hansen has also continued with his Rugby World Cup strategy of not selecting a specialist lock on the bench, although the All Blacks pride themselves on innovative line-out variations regardless.
Cheika showed his hand early against England, so it will be fascinating to see what modifications are made to the Wallabies’ tactical approach for this match; popular consensus is to expect more kicking.
There are two Test debutants, prop Alan Ala’alatoa on the bench for the Wallabies, and Kane Hames for the All Blacks. Hames’ rise to Test debutant is quite something, not even having a Super Rugby contract at the start of this season.
Australia has a 50 per cent win record against New Zealand at this ground – well ahead of their overall record. They last won the Bledisloe Cup in 2002, but to win it back, they need to claim two of this season’s three matches.
With the remainder to be played in New Zealand, they almost certainly need to draw first blood at home.
Most of the All Blacks have had more recent, high-intensity game time, and should be Test-match hardened.
New Zealand by 10.
Join The Roar from 7.30pm (AEST) for pre-match discussion, scores, updates and debate, live from the ground. We’ll also bring you coverage from both press conferences immediately following the match.