The three days before Bledisloe one each year are an interesting case study in Australian rugby.
Typically, fans, coaches and journalists spend these days searching for strange, superstitious clues about how to beat the All Blacks, and of course, why this is ‘the year’.
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Conspiracy-tier analysis is brought up about how we won the last game, or how the All Blacks are tired from the Super Rugby finals, usually circulated to bemused audiences.
The reality of course is that this is not the year. A simple check of the odds, and team line-ups confirms it. Let’s compare the two teams for a moment.
The front row – Tom Robertson, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu line-up against Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks. It’s a roughly even match up but you’d back the All Blacks.
The second row – Izack Rodda and Adam Coleman are a rising stock but don’t match the might of the world’s pre-eminent second row combination, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.
Arguably, the back row is the only area the Wallabies match – or even pip – their New Zealand counterparts. And even then, the quality of the individual players is offset by the lineout dangers of playing the pooper.
In terms of set piece, New Zealand’s lineout is far and away superior to Australia, particularly with the Pooper. The scrum will be interesting, but the Wallabies lose their chance to dominate with the absence of Scott Sio.
In the backs, Australia has plenty of class, but New Zealand has more. The Wallabies may at times match the firepower of the mighty All Black backline, but confidence and a better defensive line-up, particularly with talisman Ryan Crotty in the centres will lead to another New Zealand victory.
Looking across the park, there is no weakness that Australia can conceivably exploit. Compare that with New Zealand, who will pull the Pooper’s lineout to pieces, as well as target inexperienced centre defences, and it’s easy to see an All Black victory.
In days gone by there have been conceivable weaknesses in the All Black line-up. Leon McDonald couldn’t defend against Stirling Mortlock – and the All Black backline had a leaky defence. Their lineout used to falter. These weaknesses have long since disappeared entirely.
The All Blacks are a complete rugby team.
Make no mistake, do not dare to dream, Australia will sink tonight. It might not be the blow out of years gone by, with the Wallabies desperate to salvage pride for the game as it crumbles around them. But All Black class will simply be too much for this rising Wallaby side.