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The All Blacks host the Wallabies this afternoon at Sky Stadium, Wellington, for the first in a long-awaited four-match Bledisloe Cup series. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match from 2pm (AEDT).
I have no idea what is really going to happen today. This game will be messy. As the first outing after the 2019 Rugby World Cup reset, both teams have new coaches, rookies and law interpretations. Set pieces and breakdowns will probably break down.
It could be messy in another way. It could be that the All Blacks click at home in the Kiwi capital and the Wallabies do not. It seems this is what many fans and bookies are expecting if Australia don’t bring a smart approach to the match.
Wallabies debutant coach David Rennie seems smart, but will he be able to transmit his intelligence to his team?
The key players will be his special forces: the back row combination from Queensland, New South Wales and Canberra, and the two seasoned and talented halves of Nic White and James O’Connor.
White is more of a half-forward than a halfback. He was instrumental in exposing the supermen from New Zealand to their kryptonite last year by playing up the guts and controlling the pace.
The Kiwis will be sore from their loss to England and intend to take it out on the Aussies. They will be wise to Rennie’s intentions. The tight-five contest will be brutal, complete with scrum shenanigans.
Two specific weaknesses the All Blacks will target relates to jumping. The Kiwi lineout pair is very good. The Australian starting lineout is new and will surely be tested. Secondly, the Wallabies wingers are significantly shorter than the All Blacks.
Expect Richie Mo’unga to kick to the flanks, to win territory, front foot and line breaks against the short wingers. O’Connor, similar to Mo’unga, is a triple threat, but I expect Noah Lolesio to take it to the next level when he comes off the bench.
The pandemic has led to the selection of home referees. I expect a lot of complaints about calls and missed calls.
The All Blacks should win this game, but I expect the Wallabies to be smarter than last year. This is not hard. For the Wallabies to win this match, they need to control the pace, momentum and withstand the clever things that the All Blacks will do to disrupt their plan.
Kick-off: 2pm (AEDT)
Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Paul Williams
TV: Channel Ten, Fox Sports
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
Odds: All Blacks $1.10, Wallabies $7
1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 5. Samuel Whitelock, 6. Shannon Frizell, 7. Sam Cane (captain), 8. Ardie Savea, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 11. George Bridge, 12. Jack Goodhue, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Jordie Barrett, 15. Damian McKenzie.
Bench: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Tupou Vaa’i, 20. Hoskins Sotutu, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Anton Lienert-Brown, 23. Caleb Clarke.
1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Fainga’a, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5. Matt Philip, 6. Harry Wilson, 7. Michael Hooper (captain), 8. Pete Samu, 9. Nic White, 10. James O’Connor, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Matt To’omua, 13. Hunter Paisami, 14. Filipo Daugunu, 15. Tom Banks.
Bench: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Allan Alaalatoa, 19. Rob Simmons, 20. Rob Valetini, 21. Jake Gordon, 22. Noah Lolesio, 23. Reece Hodge.