Ian Foster’s starting XV spells disaster for Australia as the All Blacks coach made several changes that have bolstered the team and diminished the Wallabies’ chances of winning.
It seems Australian chances were immediately snuffed with Foster announcing that Beauden Barrett is raring to go this week. A fully-fit Barrett doesn’t bode well for Australia as his attacking abilities were sorely missed in the previous game and his involvement tomorrow will be crucial for a dominant All Blacks display.
Don’t forget, this is the same Barrett that scored four tries and 30 of New Zealand’s points in the 40-12 walloping at Eden Park in 2018. It is the same Barrett that played fullback in the All Blacks outfit that thumped the Wallabies 36-0 at Eden Park in 2019.
Of the 28 appearances, throughout a range of competitions, where the 29-year-old competed against Australia, New Zealand have only lost four games, giving him a colossal 86 per cent win rate.
Barrett has proven himself as Australia’s kryptonite and if there is anyone that has a knack for beating the Wallabies, it’s him.
In addition to this and to assist Barrett’s attacking prowess, Foster has surrounded his star talent with his finest back line.
Rather than play people out of position as he did in the first match, the All Blacks coach has opted for a more cohesive and structured combination. So, Anton Lienert-Brown, who is a superb defender, comes into the line for Rieko Ioane, who claims bench duties following that error last week.
Foster’s choice to offer Ioane an opportunity to correct his mistake, albeit from the bench, is resourceful. The 23-year-old will strive to set the record straight and provide immense impact in the latter stages of the game.
Leinert-Brown’s selection guarantees the New Zealanders maintain their defensive strength and safeguard areas where Ioane previously failed.
Due to George Bridge’s training injury, young gun Caleb Clarke – who had an energetic performance in his debut stint off the bench – will join them in the All Blacks’ starting back line. The mammoth 21-year-old offers an alternate variation of game play to Bridge, who was often stretched by the Wallabies’ attack in Bledisloe 1.
His linking up with Barrett through his tough ball-running game will be a thing of beauty and the opportunity to perform in front of his home crowd will only excite him further.
Foster didn’t just stop there. The forwards have been injected with fresh blood through the inclusion of Tupou Vaa’i and Alex Hodgman.
Vaa’i, the youngest member of Foster’s squad, will assume the role of second-rower for injured Sam Whitelock and offers a strong physical presence on the field. His selection breathes even more life into an already invigorated forward pack and allows the opportunity for his further development.
Alex Hodgman, included for his mobility around the park, demonstrates Foster’s willingness to build on their strong scrums and mauls and infuse their pack with fierce ball carriers.
Foster’s selections for Bledisloe 2 have certainly constrained Australia’s chances of winning and a gargantuan effort is required by Dave Rennie’s men if they are to leave New Zealand needing only the one home win to finally lift the cup.
How fitting would it be if a New Zealander-led Wallabies team overcame a potent All Blacks side to finally break the dreaded history that is Eden Park?
For what a Rennie-led Wallabies team could achieve, there is always hope.