If you saw Bledisloe 1 or have been following the coverage this week then you might be wondering how any preview of Bledisloe 2 can be any longer than:
Venue: Eden Park
Result: All Blacks many vs Wallabies few.
But as always, rugby is not as simple as that. Of course the All Blacks are firm favourites but while there were some big issues for the Wallabies highlighted in the first match, it’s fair to assume that they will be working hard right now in their island camp to get things in order and will put in a better performance this weekend.
With both sides making personnel changes there’ll be some interesting new battles, most notably in the front row where the Wallabies have made two changes bringing in Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa for Tom Robertson and Sekope Kepu.
Jack Maddocks has also earned a starting position on the wing as Dane Haylett-Petty moves to fullback to replace Israel Folau. Are the Wallabies any stronger for these changes? Hmm… debatable.
For the home side there are two changes in the backs as Ryan Crotty is replaced by Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett comes in for Rieko Ioane although the Hurricane player will be at fullback and Ben Smith will move to wing.
In doing so he and Waisake Naholo become the oldest ever wing partnership in All Black history.
Interestingly these changes will also lead to the least experienced centre pairing in a Bledisloe match for the Kiwis. Could Kurtley Beale look to exploit this inexperience?
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown
15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lukhan Tui, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Folau Faingaa, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Tom Banks
Understandably, all the talk this week has been about what the Wallabies need to do differently.
Israel Folau is a big loss although interestingly he didn’t feature that much in Game 1.
In the series against Ireland, Folau presented a threat at the restart as much as in attack and it was strange that they didn’t use that more against the All Blacks last week.
But with that option now off the table it does mean that the rest of the back line are going to have to step up and execute perfectly.
A big game is needed from Bernard Foley and Beale – these are the two players who hold the keys to scoring the big points but they will need the other players around them giving them options and distracting defenders.
Of course though, the backs will need clean, fast ball from a forwards pack that is going… well… forwards.
This all starts with the set piece and you’d expect that after the horrors of Sydney, the Wallabies pack will put in a far better performance.
It’s a shame that they are having to spend a week before such an important game to rebuild their line out but if they can get back to solid standards then that will be a huge improvement.
The fact that Taniela Tupou won’t be fit is a big shame – the impact he has in that final 20 to 30 minutes is impressive.
It would be easy to focus too much time on the set piece this week and believe that if the Wallabies can fix that, then we’ll see a much more competitive 80 minutes.
But the reality is that there are some other key areas where the Aussies will need to step up their game. One is the quality of execution in attack.
In Sydney there were instances that highlighted that Stephen Larkham and his backs still have work to do to be a ruthless machine.
Planned moves not only didn’t penetrate the defence but they weren’t even completed as balls were dropped and possession given away.
The best example of this was when Haylett-Petty dropped a pass mid move in the 52nd minute, Beauden Barrett did his impression of Lionel Messi and scored against the flow of play.
It’ll be interesting to see how Michael Hooper responds as a leader. In Game 1 he was off the pace in that second half and couldn’t have the impact his team needed.
Beyond that though, there are questions about the way he communicates with referees. In the first half in Sydney he complained to Jaco Peyper that the All Blacks had maliciously killed two try scoring chances for his side.
But the way in which he did it came across as a teenager whining about how life was so unfair.
He’d have been better off making his case to Peyper and then when he saw that the ref was only giving a penalty, he could have asked a leading question like “So next time this happens will it be a yellow do you think sir?”
He’s a talismanic leader in terms of effort but he needs to sharpen up the way he creates that bit of favour with officials.
There was much talked about the impressive Wallabies defence in the first match.
While they were much better in that first half than previous performances, it’s worth noting that across the 80 minutes they missed almost 25 per cent of their tackles.
That’s poor and they have to add this to the growing to-do list before the second game in Eden Park.
This isn’t meant to sound all doom and gloom. The Wallabies are not a bad side and they do have great talent dotted throughout their team.
However they also do have that capacity to play badly and what fans are looking for is for them to reduce that gap between their best and their worst performances.
It’s too soon to say that this is a make or break game for Cheika but a big beating in Eden Park will mean that the Aussies have won just one game in seven and that’s hardly the form of a team challenging for the World Cup.
The Wallabies are going to be better this weekend and they will be desperate to put in a better performance than game one.
But even with a big improvement beating the All Blacks at Eden Park would be a very difficult challenge for any side and it’s impossible to see it happening this time.
New Zealand to win by 15 points.