The Wallabies have a chance to win the Rugby Championship, but to do so, they’ll need to beat New Zealand in Perth.
To win the Rugby World Cup, teams will almost certainly have to beat the All Blacks at some point. This is Australia’s chance to cement themselves as contenders for the Webb Ellis trophy, and put a hand on the Bledisloe Cup, which they haven’t held since 2002.
On paper, the Wallabies don’t have much of a chance. Their opponents have won nine of the last 10 meetings, and took the Bledisloe in a clean sweep last year, winning each game by an average of 23 points.
Funnily enough, in odd-numbered years, the Wallabies tend to do better. They upset New Zealand in 2011, 2015 and 2017, while results in even-numbered years are less frequent.
The Aussies have claimed the Rugby Championship in the last two World Cup years, at a time when the SANZAAR tournament is almost an afterthought.
But Steve Hansen seems keen to win this comp. He’s named a full-strength XV for this game, while Michael Cheika hasn’t exactly put out an academy team either.
The notable selection for New Zealand is Beauden Barrett at fullback, instead of his usual 10. In game two last year, Barrett torched the Aussies, scoring four tries and running for more than 100 metres. Playing from the back this time round, the Blues recruit won’t be anywhere near as involved.
The same setup was used a fortnight ago against South Africa, in the 16-16 draw.
The big surprise for Australia is James O’Connor, who will start at 13 in a baptism of fire move. Since heading to Europe, O’Connor has convinced us that his best position is in the centres, but a starting opportunity against New Zealand is his real chance to prove himself.
In team news for Australia, Dave Pocock won’t make his return despite rumours he would. He’s expected to play a part in Auckland, however. The back row is made up of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Michael Hooper and the in-form Isi Naisarani.
Nic White will deservedly start at halfback, after a shining performance in South Africa. Tolu Latu runs out at hooker, and he links up with Allan Alaalatoa in the front row.
Somewhat harshly, Tevita Kuridrani has been dropped, to make way for O’Connor.
For the visitors, Brodie Retallick’s shoulder injury rules him out, and Scott Barrett takes his place. The back row features regular open-side Ardie Savea moving to blindside, with Sam Cane in his normal position. Kieran Read remains at 8.
TJ Perenara is knocked back to the bench, by Aaron Smith, and Dane Coles overtakes Codie Taylor for the hooker position.
Anton Lienart-Brown will start at 12.
Australia put together a solid first stanza against Argentina – probably their only convincing half in this tournament. What they’ve struggled with is supporting the ball carrier, which could leave them vulnerable against New Zealand.
The All Blacks haven’t been invincible so far this year, and the Wallabies do have a chance.
New Zealand by 16.